Cape Town — No team has ever won the T20 World Cup without losing a match. That, and, of course, the welcome return to a semblance of form for captain Temba Bavuma, is the only good news South Africa can take from an error-strewn performance against Pakistan at the SCG on Thursday.
The aspirations of reaching the play-offs for just the third time – let alone winning the whole shebang – in eight attempts remain intact. But it is also the case that the trip to Adelaide to face the Netherlands on Sunday (2am SA time) is now of far greater importance.
Any wiggle room that might have existed was vanquished by Shadab Khan’s brilliant all-round performance and the continuous temperamental Australian weather that has persistently sullied this tournament.
“I think as a team if you are going to lose, then now is probably the best time. But looking to our next game, that’s now a must-win for us looking at the table. And then of course, the play-offs are a must-win,” Bavuma told reporters after the 33-run Duckworth Lewis defeat.
“I guess we had a bit of a lifeline in terms of the way we have played up until this point, but I think from now on it's about us playing our best cricket. We didn’t play our best cricket today, and hopefully we will in the next few games.”
It is imperative that South Africa learn quickly that when in ascendancy it is best to push home the advantage if they wish to prevail in tournament cricket, especially against a maverick side like Pakistan.
Furthermore, it will not help their ambitions if they allow teams to recover from 43/4 to an eventual 185/9, especially when it's due to amateur-like fielding lapses and a litany of dropped catches.
“It is probably a bit of a wake-up call for us. Looking at the game how it went about, I thought the first 10 overs were superb, we were able to get them under pressure, but then the wheels probably fell off a bit.
“The conditions changed a bit with the ball starting to skid on. But our awareness, in terms of adapting to it, we were slow in that, we allowed them to get momentum into their innings, and to get a formidable score on the board.
“They had momentum coming into the field, and you know a team like Pakistan is very dangerous when you give them a sniff. I don’t think it's a concern. Yes, there are talking points for us, and areas we can learn from, and maybe it's a performance we needed to bring us back down to earth.
“I am not going to sit here and look for excuses. Up until this game it has been very good. We have fielded at night, during the day, and in wet conditions. I think individually guys were not where they needed to be mentally. The mistakes that were made were not the type of mistakes that you’re wanting to be making at this level, especially at this stage of the tournament. Maybe the intensity lowered a bit from the guys, and that's definitely not the standard of fielding we pride ourselves on.”
Bavuma was certainly disappointed with his team’s overall performance, but he could at least finally let out a smile about his own form that resulted in 36 off 19 balls, which included four sweetly-timed boundaries and audacious six over square leg.
“It’s been a while since I've hit the ball anywhere near the middle. I felt a lot better today, seeing the ball a lot better, making better decisions out there, a lot more calmer. I think I just tried to enjoy it. Watch the ball. Much better today, and hopefully I can continue for the rest of the tournament,” he said.