A third CWC loss leaves South Africa in a knockout scenario
SOUTHAMPTON, England (AP) — South Africa's demoralizing run of injuries and defeats has left a simple equation for Faf du Plessis and his beleaguered team at the Cricket World Cup.
Win six straight games and they're still in the hunt for the elusive title. Lose one, and an already long stretch of unfulfilled potential will likely continue.
The six-wicket loss to India on Wednesday was the third in the first seven days of the tournament for the South Africans, their worst ever run at a Cricket World Cup.
But the skid and the degree of difficulty it has created for the team isn't enough to ruffle veteran opening batsman Hashim Amla, who thinks success just may come from being forced down a different route.
"The last two World Cups, we started off pretty good but unfortunately we didn't win," he said. "Maybe this is another way around. Maybe this could be the one where we start badly, get a win, get some momentum and turn things around."
South Africa will have four days before its next match against the West Indies, again in Southampton.
Some recovery time could be all they need to turn things around, said Amla, who was dismissed for six against India after missing the weekend loss to Bangladesh as a precaution following a head-knock in the opening loss to England.
The South Africans have already lost veteran pace spearhead Dale Steyn for the tournament — he didn't bowl a ball — and have had to do without Lungi Ngidi since he strained his hamstring early in the loss the Bangladesh. Other fast bowlers were injured before the tournament and didn't travel to England.
But an under-resourced attack, led by paceman Kagiso Rabada, did an impressive job in trying to defend a small target of 228 and India only had 15 balls to spare in securing the win.
The losses to top-ranked England and No. 2-ranked India weren't entirely unexpected for the Proteas, although dropping the game to Bangladesh was costly.
South Africa has never reached a Cricket World Cup final but came tantalizingly close in a tied semifinal the last time the tournament was held in England, with Australia advancing on a tiebreaker countback from that game and going on to win the title in 1999.
Every game will be treated like a knockout now for the South Africans. And, who knows, it may even come down to the last group game against Australia in Manchester on July 6 to determine spots in the semifinals.
"We've got to keep things in perspective. Take our time to lament all the results," said Amla, who averages almost 50 and has scored almost 8,000 runs in the ODI format. "Desperate? I don't think just yet. Six out of six basically gets you there. It's about reassessing and getting better."