SA nightmare. Dutch dream. Pakistan and India qualify. SKY. Shakib LBW. And Zimbabwe’s team effort.

Day 22 of the World Cup.

South Africa lose

South Africa was part of the reason the ICC exists. In order to have a triangular tournament between England, Australia and South Africa, they formed the Imperial Cricket Conference. They were terrible in that first ICC event. They had two ten wicket losses and another that they lost by an innings.

Then there was one game they did well. They made 329 against Australia on a soaking wet pitch, and dismissed them for 219 the following day. The third and final day, not a single ball was bowled.

We think South Africa’s bad form and luck in World Cups started in 1992, it started in 1912.

Shall we quickly look at the greatest hits? In that first World Cup since readmission, they needed 22 from 13 runs with five wickets in hand. The partnership at the crease of McMillan and Richardson had already scored 25 from 18 balls, but this was still a big ask in 1992 cricket.

The rain came down, and under the current laws at the time the players had to come out for one last ball. In that, South Africa now needed 22 runs from one ball. Unsurprisingly, they did not do that.

In 1999 they were an absolute machine of ODI cricket, they were actively changing the game via using Allan Donald as a first change bowler and Lance Klusener playing T20 cricket before it existed. It was Klusener who was smashing Australia in that semi final, and Australia were panicking and choking all over the place. Until South Africa got the scores level, they needed one more run to win, and Klusener suddenly changed his game, and in the space of two balls Australia had two run out chances, they missed the first and got the second.

Four years later and South Africa only went and tied again. This time it was by accident. Hosting their first World Cup, South Africa found themselves in a must win, rain hit game against Sri Lanka. Mark Boucher was facing Murali, he smacked the wet ball for a six, and to get ahead of DLS - which South Africa inspired the use of - Boucher just needed a single. Instead they misunderstood DLS, and they, thought being equal with the score was enough,. So Boucher defended the ball, and the scores remained tied, and South Africa were out of their home World Cup before the second round.

In 2015 South Africa made the semi finals against New Zealand. With the clouds coming in South Africa won the toss and batted first. They actually still made quite a few runs, and set the game up well. This time it didn’t matter, because Grant Elliott - a born and raised South Africa who had emigrated to New Zealand to play as  a professional - beat them. Apparently the South African kit was the problem, not just being from there.

And then today. This is the Netherland’s 8th game of the tournament, in that time, they have been terrible with that bat. They crawled over the line against UAE chasing 111, limped their way to Namibia’s 121. Ended up with 135 and 123 against Bangladesh and India. Against Pakistan, they never crossed 100.

Their greatest innings was chasing 117 against Zimbabwe, and Max O’Dowd pulling them to 146 against Sri Lanka. Today this was their highest score in the World Cup.

South Africa are going home this time because they couldn’t chase a surprising total of the worst batting team left at this tournament. South Africa are going home because when they had a chance of cementing the semi final spot against Pakistan, the wet ball and their own panic allowed a total they couldn’t reach. South Africa are out of this tournament because a match against Zimbabwe - that should have been abandoned hours earlier - was called off when they had all but won.

Sean Williams was captaining Zimbabwe in that game, and as they were playing in conditions that club games would have ended, he finally looked at the umpires and said, 'this is a World Cup'.

He was right, and South Africa know what that means. They go home early.

When I was a kid, South Africa was the team I hated the most. I was a young Aussie fan, and they were the only team really capable of taking Australia’s crown. And so when I started my blog I kept going with it as a joke. Despite the moment having well and truly passed.

But I lived with a South African, many of my friends were from there too. It was the country I most wanted to visit as a kid. But I still never warmed to their team. As a cricket writer though, I got to know so many of their players, past and present, and they’ve been far nicer than any other major teams I have dealt with. And I’ve got to cover their under-appreciated great Test team, and many of these World Cup moments.

And it makes me think I honestly don’t know how you can live as a South African fan anymore. People can deal with their team being good or bad. But how do you cope with this. Again, and again. Good teams with slight flaws turn up and are exposed. They can’t count, they don’t read the weather, they can’t run between the wickets and no matter what happens, it ends in disaster.

South Africa gives their fans more than enough to believe in, and also so many reasons never to believe again. It’s like as a fan you are in a constant state of emotional distress, you can’t trust your eyes, because your heart never mended from the last scar.

Look at how joyful the Zimbabwean fans are at this World Cup. This is a team celebrating its culture through a World Cup. India were smashing them everywhere and their fans were dancing and partying.

Will South African fans ever get that kind of feeling at a World Cup? There is too much pressure and the amalgamation of a history of heartbreak to actually just enjoy your team at a World Cup. That they lose is one thing, how they lose is another.

Netherlands Win

Dutch cricket is very different to the rest of the world. Just before they beat England in 2009, they all met up in England, and for their fitness work, they grabbed a boom box, walked to a local park and worked out. Even now they are the only international cricket team I know who all eat breakfast together. They ask hotels to make them one giant table. They do things their way.

Their last World Cup was horrible, they were essentially out of the tournament in the first game when they lost four wickets in four balls to Curtis Campher. They then lost to Namibia, before being dismissed for only 44 runs against Sri Lanka. I did not misspeak, that was their entire total.

Since then, they had the greatest summer of cricket in their history, in one season they had New Zealand, West Indies, Pakistan and England tour. They’ve never had anything like this before, and may never get it again. Because of county cricket and injuries, they rarely had their best teams out there. Instead throwing kids out again and again hoping some of them would take off. Bas de Leede did, Tim Pringle did.

But it was often rough, and Netherlands lost all their 11 matches.

The most embarrassing was when they allowed England to score the world record ODI total. And were it not for a great over from Logan van Beek, the Netherlands would have been on the receiving end of the first 500 run total. As it was, they sneaked by at 498.

But that wasn’t this team, only van Beek and de Leede are at this World Cup from their bowlers.

And there was little doubt this team had bowling. Paul van Meekeren has had a late stage metamorphosis, and he was pretty good before. Van Beek is just a solid bowler who knows his strengths really well. Fred Klaasen is now a solid professional who can take top order wickets against anyone. And Brandon Glover is still unfulfilled a a talent, but even as he develops he is capable of a spree of wickets. You throw in two canny finger spinners in Ackermann and van der Merwe, and that is an attack.

All World Cup, that lot has been good. Van Meekeren has been god tier, de Leede has produced more wickets than you ever expect from a young fifth option. And today it was only van Meekeren - of all people - who didn’t come off. But this lot have had a great tournament already. No one was setting a world record off this lot.

It was their batting that was bad. They were awkward and tentative in chases, and when they tried to bat first it didn’t go that much better. We have been saying it all tournament, and even in the past. Look at the names in their middle order, Roelof van der Merwe, Tom Cooper, Ryan ten Doeschate, Colin Ackermann and Scott Edwards. And almost all of them have provided nothing. Game after game.

And then today two of them stand up, and suddenly this team looks like something else. O’Dowd and the bowlers have been screaming for support, and they got it, they beat one of the tournament favourites and sent them home.

If you don’t know much about the history of the Netherlands cricket, I just recently released a podcast on them. in 1964 they beat an Australian team at home. Dutch players were good enough in the early 1900s for WG Grace to recruit them. Their women played a Test match against South Africa.

They have been written off by casual fans over the years as a team of expats. But their three best players in this tournament have been O’Dowd, van Meekeren, and de Leede. O’Dowd played underage cricket in the Netherlands between the age of 6 and 12. Van Meekeren played age group cricket for the Dutch all the way through, if they had an under 7s side, he would have probably played in that. And Bas de Leede is so Dutch, that he is not even the first Dutch cricketer in his family.

Their former captain, Pieter Seelar would have been here if his back had held up. He came to cricket by accident, didn’t own pads when he bowled at the death at Lord’s to help defeat England. They have a history, they have a present. What they needed was more days like this.

It is impossible not to focus on South Africa on a day like this. Their story is the most compelling and twisted.

But this is one of the sunniest days of Dutch cricket history. They didn’t just beat a Test playing nation. They beat the team that is most closely linked with theirs, in the second round, and sent them home.

There will be a lot of talk about how South Africa choked. Let us remember who gripped their necks in the first place.

Pakistan qualify

So Pakistan are into the semi finals. Of course they are. Effectively out of the tournament following the Zimbabwe Pak Bean fiasco, they now have the Netherlands to thank for rescuing their hopes by dumping out South Africa.

This is pure uncut Pakistan, back from her brink just when it seemed all was lost, although even for them this was a lucky escape. I had already made a video about how three random unlikely losses cost them two World Cups, and somehow they are still here.

Now though there can be few teams who would want to face them, their bowling as ever looks potent and their batting has mostly, somehow, just about found a way despite Rizwan and Babar not having a great tournament.

If they ever get going and if Iftikhar and Shadab can keep up their good work or Mohammad Nawaz can be exorcised then they have a batting lineup that can cause problems and that’s without mentioning the dependable Shan Masood and Mohammad Haris who they’ve plucked from the sidelines (5 PSL games) straight into a starring role.

It was Haris today who followed up his lively tournament debut against South Africa with a vital 31 from 18 here, just as Pakistan looked like they might Pakistan their seemingly simple chase of 128.

Although he at least spent some time in the middle Babar’s horror show largely continued, making 25 from 33 but fortunately Pakistan never needed to score at a great rate. Shan Masood scored at a better rate, with an unbeaten 24 from 14 to see Pakistan home.

Their victory though was set up by the bowlers, Shadab Khan taking the crucial two wickets in two balls that crushed Bangladesh just as they had built a great platform of 73/1 in the 11th over – even if the first ball duck for Shakib was extremely fortunate.

It was a turning point in the innings that Bangladesh never recovered from and Pakistan’s bowlers went on to enjoy themselves. They will have been buoyed by the return to form from Shaheen Shah Afridi after his injury layoff and quiet start to the tournament.

He finished with 4/22 from his 4 overs, one of four bowlers with economies less than six for Pakistan as they ensured Bangladesh could only make 127. Some excellent pegging back after Bangladesh had started well.

They now face New Zealand in the first semi final, which promises to be a fascinating match up.

India win and (and qualify)

As expected India won, their qualification was already guaranteed by Netherlands beating South Africa but their thrashing of Zimbabwe means they finish as group leaders and go into the second semi final with England on Thursday.

They were given the occasional wobble by Zimbabwe with the ball but then SKY continued his fantastic tournament with 61 from 25 to ensure they set 186 – which India’s bowlers then showed was more than enough for them to defend.

They look in fairly ominous form going into the semi finals. With the bat their top four have now all scored half centuries in the tournament, KL Rahul in back to back games and Kohli and SKY three times each in five matches. While the addition of Pant for Karthik also strengthens their batting realistically.

Today, admittedly only against Zimbabwe who do not have a very fearsome batting lineup, their bowlers ran riot. Bowling the opposition out in 17.2 overs.

Arshdeep and Bhuvi were extremely economical and picked up a wicket each, Shami and Pandya got two each and Ashwin three. Only Axar Patel was expensive, going at 12 an over for his single wicket and he remains the only spot in the lineup that India seem likely to rotate out at any point.

Altogether India would perhaps have liked to have been challenged a little more but it was certainly a confidence booster for them going into the semis and given how their batting has gone they probably look the most complete side at the moment.

Dutch finally make runs

Well they took their time but this Dutch side have finally made some runs in a World Cup. And what a time to do it.

Coming into this game the Netherlands had only once made more than 135 with the bat in this tournament – the 146 they got to in the 19-run defeat by Sri Lanka. Today they made 158/4 and with something for their bowlers finally to defend, that was enough to beat South Africa.

The tone was set in the powerplay, where Rabada and Ngidi were repeatedly taken down, conceding 37 from their three overs. By the end of six Netherlands were 48/0, their second best powerplay of the tournament, following the 51/0 they made against Namibia.

Stephan Myburgh hadn’t made any runs since being brought in to the side late in the tournament, but he did today, 37 from 30 as the Dutch started brilliantly and never let up.

However the biggest transformation came via the Dutch middle order, who have been almost non-existent up till this point in the tournament. And in the last edition.

So far across both editions their number five position has not given them 100 runs in 11 games, while their number 11 has almost half as much. It has basically been O’Dowd, and no one.

In the seven games the Netherlands had played in the tournament before today, Tom Cooper had made 72 runs and 32 of those came in the last match against Zimbabwe. If that match signalled the start of a return to form then he carried it on today, making an excellent 35 from 19.

He took down the spin of Markram and Maharaj for a six apiece, including a brilliant reverse sweep off Maharaj. In total today’s innings made up 33% of all the runs he’s made in the tournament.

The other star with the bat was Colin Ackermann, who had fared a little if not much better than Cooper so far, with just 124 runs in 7 games so far. He came in in the 13th over and batted through for the Netherlands, ensuring they didn’t blow their great start.

He exploded in the last over, finishing the innings off for the Netherlands brilliantly, smashing Parnell for two sixes as the Dutch took 15 from it to go past 150 for the first time in the competition. He finished with 41 from 26, 25% of all his runs in the tournament.

It was the batting effort we have been waiting for from the Netherlands, and we finally saw what could happen when they gave their bowlers something to work with. It’s just a shame we had to wait this long.

SA batting

When I did the power rankings I said that I had some concerns about South Africa’s batting. That their top order was not as strong as some of the others, that they had a weakness at 7 and even potentially six with a young player there and that they were due a collapse that exposes them.

I also had them ranked second and they haven’t made it out of the group so you can’t be right about everything.

South Africa too clearly had concerns about that young player at 6, Parnell at 7 combo, because they played Klaasen over Stubbs today, opting for more experience. Parnell has a career T20I strike rate of 96. He’s better than that domestically, but they wanted five frontline bowlers, and that brings risk.

You could argue as well that South Africa’s batting was made to look much better than it was by Rossouw’s obliteration of Bangladesh, something that ultimately proved more of an outlier than their norm.

With Bavuma not in great touch, despite his mini revival against Pakistan, more pressure has been put on de Kock. When he went in the third over, South Africa were immediately in a bit of trouble.

Today they just never got going, batsmen getting starts but nobody was kicking on – their top 6 all scoring between 13-25 runs.

Their batsmen weren’t scoring overly quickly either, putting more pressure on those coming in later on. De Kock, Bavuma and Miller all scored at a run a ball, Klaasen not much above that and only Rossouw and Markram going at better than 130.

The steady drip of wickets was slowly killing off South Africa’s chances but they really died in the 16th over, van Der Merwe taking that catch to get Miller and then Parnell going for a two-ball duck. That brittle lower middle order exposed and collapsing.

Maharaj gave all he could but could only hop between the wickets and you have to question whether with South Africa needing runs, having a man out there who literally couldn’t run was really all that sensible. They clearly backed him to hit boundaries and he did hit a six but all that did was get his strike rate up to just over a run a ball.

In the end South Africa finished 13 runs short of the Dutch, as damning a statement on their batting as anything else.

Dutch bowlers

What a tournament it has been for Netherlands’ bowlers. Today they got the reward for what has been an excellent World Cup from them, finally getting a decent total to defend and scoring the shock of the competition.

It was ironic that today van Meekeren, who has been the stand out for them so far, was their worst bowler. He went at 11 an over and only bowled three of his four in the end.

Fortunately the rest of the attack stood up around him, Klaasen was superb taking the key wicket of de Kock early and then later on Markram before he could get going. He went for just five an over, finishing with 2/20.

Brandon Glover has only come into the Dutch team for the last three games but he finishes the tournament with 7 wickets, 3 of them today. He got the dangerous Rilee Rossouw and then bowled the crucial over that finally sunk South Africa, getting Miller and Parnell in the space of three balls. He finished with the ridiculous figures of 3/9 from two overs.

Meanwhile Colin Ackermann bowled a very handy and economical three overs for 16.

Bas de Leede continued his happy knack of seemingly always picking up wickets, finishing with 2/25 and 13 for the tournament, making him the leading wicket taker for the Netherlands in the competition and 2nd overall. It’s an incredible achievement for the Dutch to have a local born all rounder in this position. A lot of people expected big things from him, to have him deliver this soon is incredible.

It was a great all round performance from the Dutch who contained South Africa brilliantly – particularly in the powerplay where at one point they prevented them scoring a boundary for 19 balls. 11 of the overs bowled went at a run a ball or less as South Africa could never really get on top.

It was the perfect finish to a great tournament for the Dutch bowlers.


Sky played a fantastic innings today. Coming in, Ngarava, had been going at less than a run a ball in the death, and good teams couldn’t get a hold of him. Today he went for 33 runs in his last two overs. And even in that you could still see his skill, he actually delivered a few clutch dot balls in between. But eventually but SKY just came up with a method of sweeping the ball wide ones that Ngarava has been killing people with.

This is the death economy coming into this game.

You can see that Zimbabwe - despite playing a lot of matches - had an incredible run so far. Today that jumped up 1.3 runs. So they still end the tournament as a great death bowling unit. But one that had a chunk bitten out of them by Sky.

It was a perfect combination of innovation, timing and skill. When the 15th over had been delivered, the total looked like something around 160 was on the cards. India made 186. And the did it right up against Zimbabwe’s strength, their seam bowling at the death.

At 160, Zimbabwe had a chance, at 186, they did not. The difference was SKY.


Three balls into the 11th over and Bangladesh were 73/1 – in a winner takes all they had Pakistan looking rattled. Then came the over and in it the moment where everything fell apart for them.

First Soumya Sarkar was out trying to reverse sweep Shadab, but then a ball later came the moment of controversy that they never recovered from.

Shakib was struck in front LBW, but it was a long way down the wicket to begin with – Hawkeye saying more than 3 metres when he called for the review. That though was a minor gripe compared with the fact that it clearly seemed to hit his bat on the way through to the pads.

The third umpire ruled that the spike on Ultraedge was the bat hitting the ground which did look like it was a possibility until another angle seemed to suggest there was actually a gap between the bat and the ground.

All in all Shakib and Bangladesh can feel pretty hard done by. Usually they blame moments like this on India running the ICC, not sure that explains this mistake. Of course Pakistan may well have fought back as decisively as they did with the ball anyway, but this felt like a moment that just sucked the life out of Bangladesh’s innings. From that point on they added just 55 in their final 9.1 overs.

It was a shame because Bangladesh had looked like they were going to make it an interesting game. Najmul Hossain Shanto had continued his encouraging tournament with 54, his second half century in 3 games. Ultimately though they just never had enough with the bat.

Sloppy fielding also cost them with the ball, Rizwan dropped in the first over when early wickets were their only real hope of getting back into things. Nasum Ahmed and Mustafizur were both economical but Bangladesh never had enough runs to play with.

It ends a curious tournament for them where they nearly won their hardest game against India and came a win away from making the semis but actually only beat Netherlands and Zimbabwe and finished fifth out of six in their group.


Ryan Burl made runs today, he has become the face of Zimbabwe cricket of recent times, because of the tweet about wanting a boot sponsor and the hat-trick against Australia. But this has not been his World Cup.

His leg spin has barely been needed with Raza bowling so well and this being a seamer led tournament. He was also pushed down the order a little bit, and when he has gotten in, he’s struggled to hit the ball off the square. He had scored 66 runs from 75 balls. He hadn’t failed much, it’s just that rarely did his presence help the team.

Today he made 35 from 22.

In the eight games, so many players have stood up for them at different times. Yes, Sikander Raza has hogged the limelight with an incredible World Cup campaign. And his runs performance against India might get him a bench spot in the IPL next year.

But whether it be Chakabva’s keeping, Chatara’s composure, a surprise wicket from Jongwe, Ervine and Williams’ nous, Evans last over, Blessing’s powerplays, Madhevere’s wet knock, and Ngarava’s death skill, so many of their team have stood up.

I sent a tweet about them that went viral and it upset some Zimbabweans, as in it, I talked about the fixing, and suspension and a few other things they have overcome. I get that, if you are a Zimbabwean person, your team has a great day, and you don’t want some random bloke pointing out all the negative shit.

But think about players like Raza, Williams and Ervine. They have lived a life of Zimbabwean cricket in its darkest days. That is part of their journey, they had to overcome everything, to get to this tournament at all. And had they made it, and limped out, no one would have thought poorly of them.

They did none of that, they choked a Test team in their first round, then got a cold reality check against another in the third. And then they sent a Scotland team home clinically.

Their worst game was the swimming pool match against South Africa. But they will always live with the fact they had two chances to beat Bangladesh off the last ball, and couldn’t. Plus they lost to the Netherlands. And there was this game against India in which they kept themselves in it until Sky ended that.

But they have that match against Pakistan too. A game at the halfway point that looked as inevitable as any result involving Pakistan can. Zimbabwe didn’t give in. They kept finding a way to put Pakistan under pressure. They won a game most major nations would struggle to win.

And Sikandar Raza should get a two day standing ovation for that World Cup. With bat and ball he was top tier. One of the great all round performances, he was their star in almost every match. Someone should write an opera of his time here.

But it’s also important to know what he is. He’s an ageing veteran player who decided to get the absolutely most out of himself through hark work, smarts and dedication.

That is what we did, and that is what Zimbabwe did this World Cup.