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Monday, June 24, 2024

The metrics don’t lie … Why Proteas Class of 2023 is the best SA Cup team ever

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Reviewing South Africa’s 2023 Cricket Cup campaign, it is safe to say that the Temba Bavuma-led unit has been relatively successful.

Only three losses in the Cup, a campaign which saw the Proteas feature in a semi-final, means South Africa enjoyed a fruitful tournament.

Going into the Cup, there were very few who gave them a chance.

To be frank, many were banking on the Proteas featuring in Cup qualifiers in Zimbabwe as efforts to secure an automatic qualification spot for the 13th edition of the showpiece event looked doomed.

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Bangladesh bummer

The team had suffered an embarrassing series defeat at home to a strong Bangladesh outfit, opponents who had never won a series in South Africa before last year’s tour.

Fast bowlers Taskin Ahmed and Shoriful Islam dictated terms during that series and had the Proteas batters in all sorts of trouble.

Bangladesh beat the Proteas 2-1, a result that left no doubt about their dominance over a full-strength Proteas team.

A year before, South Africa went on to lose a series in Sri Lanka after Bavuma’s series-ending injury in the opener, leaving SA at the tail end of the ODI Super League points table and in jeopardy of being the first Proteas team to play in a Cup qualifier tournament.

However, this year, Bavuma played an important hand alongside Heinrich Klaasen, Rassie van der Dussen and Aiden Markram to take the team straight to the Cup, avoiding the embarrassment of touring Zimbabwe.

They beat England who, heading to India, were the defending champions, and showed character in a 1-1 series draw against the West Indies before they whitewashed the Dutch here at home.

In relation to South Africa’s 2019 Cup campaign, Bavuma’s team were far more successful. And more successful than what is considered the best Proteas Cup team – the 2015 Cup squad.

In 2019, only one batter, Faf du Plessis, passed the century mark and that was against Australia – a game that was essentially a dead rubber, given South Africa’s confirmed exit way before that fixture.

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Class of 2023 soaring

In 2015, the AB de Villiers-led Proteas registered five tons, whereas the Class of 2023 saw Quinton de Kock alone cross the three-figure mark four times.

Even on the bowling front, the Class of 2023 are unmatched by any bowling attack of the past in terms of wickets taken in a single Cup campaign.

Gerald Coetzee (20 wickets) and Marco Jansen (17), both at only 23 years of age, became the first SA bowlers to cross the 16-wicket mark in a single campaign.

Coetzee even featured in the ICC team of the tournament, albeit as the 12th man. The success of this team is clearly evident, and can be further seen in the fact that they are currently placed third in the ICC ODI rankings after the conclusion of the Cup.

On most metrics, the Class of 2023 are the best Cup team South Africa has produced, and they achieved this feat with very few superstars, something that Proteas teams of the past had in abundance.

They have quietly gone about their business amid all the critiques and negativity that came their way.

When was the last time a South African sat at the top of the rankings? Be it the bowlers, batters or all-rounders’ rankings, it has been a number of years since a Proteas player was at No 1.

However, after the 2023 Cup, spinner Keshav Maharaj deservingly sits at the top of the ICC bowlers’ rankings, and this is after the spinner miraculously recovered from a major injury a month before the Cup.

The most exciting factor about this team that the majority of the players will likely feature in the 2027 Cup here at home, and it is then that they can be expected to win the Cup having had a successful 2023 campaign.



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