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South Africa post sub-par score but have something to cling to

After winning the toss and electing to bat first under cloudy skies, Faf du Plessis watched Jasprit Bumrah tie his openers in knots with a ball that hooped from the off.

The Proteas' Chris Morris. Picture: @Cricketworldcup/Twitter

LONDON - Like a sea urchin clinging to a rock amidst an underwater maelstrom, South Africa have something to defend after posting 227/9 against India in Southampton.

Stuttering contributions from Faf du Plessis (38), David Miller (31), Andile Phehlukwayo (34), Chris Morris (42) and Kagiso Rabada (31 not-out) padded out an otherwise abject display with the bat that started badly and didn’t get much better. However, they at least have a puncher’s chance against Virat Kohli’s knockout artists.

After winning the toss and electing to bat first under cloudy skies, Du Plessis watched Jasprit Bumrah tie his openers in knots with a ball that hooped from the off. He had Hashim Amla and Quinton de Kock caught in the slips within six overs with outstanding deliveries. His 2/35 from his ten overs does not tell the full story of his unnerving lines and late swing up front.

Du Plessis and Rassie van der Dussen came together with the score on 24/2 and added 54 for the third wicket through the patient accumulation of steady runs. Even when Kuldeep Yadav (1/46 from ten) and Yuzvendra Chahal (4/51 from ten), South Africa’s tormentors in the 5-1 series loss last year, were introduced, the batsmen showed resolve.

Only van der Dussen will know what was going through his mind when he crouched low to Chahal and unfurled a horrendous premeditated reverse sweep, losing his balance in the process and getting bowled around his legs for 22.

That precipitated a collapse as Du Plessis was castled in the same over by a top spinner that went on with Chahal’s arm for 38 and JP Duminy went back to a full ball from Yadav three overs later and was wrapped on the pads before wasting a review with 3 to his name.

Miller and Phehlukwayo were left to pick up the pieces and combined for 46, before Miller was added to Chahal’s tally. The aggressive left hander skipped down the wicket but meekly chipped the ball straight back to the bowler. It was a soft way to go just as he had set himself up for the final 15 overs.

Phehlukwayo has been an island in a sea of mediocrity this World Cup and he applied himself well under pressure. When he launched Yadav for the first six of the innings in the 39th over he looked set to climb through the gears and take South Africa deep.

He would not repeat the trick an over later as Chahal enticed him out his crease to play an ugly swipe that got nowhere near the ball. The all-rounder had to depart for 34.

With 200 looking like a distant prospect, Morris stood up with a gutsy cameo that included two sixes and a four. In Kagiso Rabada, whose highest ODI score offered glimpses of his potential with the bat, the pair dragged South Africa beyond the psychological barrier with an eighth wicket stand worth 66.

Du Plessis would have been hoping for more. The smattering of fans wearing green in the stadium and the millions back home would have been hoping more. But hope endures. It’s faint, but at least it’s there.

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