In the span of three months, South Africa have come full circle. Despite having played their best cricket in preparatory events, they have ended up exiting tournaments tamely.
On the India tour late last year, they stunned the hosts in the T20 and ODI series, but in the Tests, they crumbled on spin-friendly tracks, routed 0-4.
Back home, in the five-match Test series against England, South Africa drew the first game, lost the next two and won the last two to square the series. Then came the ODI series which SA won 3-2 after losing the first two games. The team had beaten New Zealand 2-1 at home last year before reaching India in September for a two-and-a-half month-long tour.
It shows that South Africa had some winning momentum with them while coming to such tournaments but they failed to quickly adapt to the different, and often adverse, conditions.
In the World T20, owing to their decent form at home in the shortest format --- they beat England and lost to Australia in close T20I games --- South Africa had arrived with high hopes.
But they are again in Delhi, looking to end the disastrous campaign with a win against Sri Lanka in a dead rubber. Adapting has been a serious problem for South Africa in this World T20. In no game did their batting and bowling click together. Having beaten Afghanistan in Mumbai, South Africa’s bowling was a big letdown against England despite scoring 229 on a bouncy wicket.
It could be argued that their batsmen were also familiar with the Wankhede wicket as they had as recently as October beaten India, scoring 438. But they again lacked application, not changing their tactics to suit the slower tracks.
And at Nagpur the team crumbled again, this time against West Indies. South Africa didn’t learn from the loss against England as they came crashing down from a strong position yet again.
Despite the presence of Faf du Plessis, AB de Villiers and David Miller, who play in the IPL every year, they were not smart enough to tackle the slow pitch.
The Nagpur pitch was slow and demanded a different approach. “The biggest mistake we have made is to assess the conditions as quickly as possible. In the last game, the wicket was very slow and difficult to bat on, and a score of 140 was probably a winning total. We ended up short and lost a lot of wickets upfront. In search of a few more runs, we lost wickets and ended up on 120-odd (127),” Hashim Amla said at a pre-match presser.
The Kotla wicket has played better than in Nagpur. In the Test series too, they had travelled to Delhi from Nagpur. Like India then, the Windies too used spin to deflate them.
In the Test against India, South Africa batsmen led by Amla had produced a blockathon in a desperate bid to force a draw. That option won’t be available to them in a T20.