South Africa's Quinton de Kock
Quinton de Kock had been in super form for South Africa, scoring three hundreds in the Cricket World Cup 2023 so far. The left-hander has been instrumental in giving the Proteas a flying start. Image Credit: AFP

South Africa have been scoring big. They have racked up a 400-plus score and followed it up with three totals that topped 300. Opener Quinton de Kock has struck three centuries, Aiden Markram hit the fastest ton (49 balls) of the Cricket World Cup 2023, and Heinrich Klaasen followed up the Chennai hundred with a near-hundred. The Proteas’s batting is buzzing.

A score of over 300 can be intimidating. Only Pakistan chased down such a tall score (344) in defeating Sri Lanka. All the mammoth totals of South Africa came when they batted first. Interestingly, their lone loss in the tournament came when they were chasing a modest score against qualifiers the Netherlands — an unexpected result.

That makes you wonder: Is batting second South Africa’s Achilles’ heel? We shall find out as the tournament progresses. They still have to play Pakistan, India and New Zealand.

South African batting juggernaut

South Africa’s batting mirrors England’s dominant displays of 2019, when Jonny Bairstow and Jason Roy lit the fuse of aggression that continued down the order. For the Proteas, De Kock has been phenomenal but they never got good starts largely due to captain Temba Bavuma’s poor form. An illness to Bavuma brought in Reeza Hendricks, whose controlled aggression is a contrast to De Kock’s freewheeling strokeplay.

Markram, who took over the leadership duties in the absence of Bavuma, continues his imperious form. In between Rassie van der Dussen’s sheet anchor role is overlooked; the lanky batter can swing his bat when the situation demands. Klaasen has been a class act, and his best was in Chennai where he battled heat and high humidity to blow away England. David Miller is a fiery finisher, and we are yet to see his best.

Now you know why South Africa have been rattling up tall totals. With the batsmen delivering runs by the buckets, they don’t need the bowlers to get runs. Marco Jansen has been living up to the allrounder tag, getting runs and wickets. And the bowlers are doing their jobs well.

Big scores make the defence easier because of the additional pressure. South African bowlers Lungi Nguidi, Kagiso Rabada and Jansen have bowled with pace and swung the new ball. The absence of Andrej Nortje hasn’t been felt, and Gerald Coetzee has filled the fourth seamer role adequately. Keshav Maharaj’s left-arm spin has served well, and they have left-arm wrist spinner Tabraiz Ahmed waiting in the wings.

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Will they choke again? That question is inevitable when we discuss South Africa. They have a history of botching crucial World Cup games, but their supporters say this is a new team, and they don’t have the baggage of the earlier sides.

That’s hard to believe. You don’t have to look far to see that there’s no merit in the argument. The collapse against the Netherlands came less than a fortnight ago, the same team which denied the Proteas a semifinal slot in the Twenty20 World Cup in Australia last year. But full credit to South Africa for picking themselves up to put the campaign back on track with convincing wins over England and Bangladesh.

They have three more big games coming up: the Pakistan match is on Friday, followed by the encounters with New Zealand and India. South Africa’s red-hot form is scary for their rivals, who will count on the Proteas’s propensity to self-destruct.

Will they make the semifinals? Next question, please!