Faf du Plessis has termed the win against Sri Lanka “bittersweet” as his side strung a clinical performance to canter to a nine-wicket win in Chester-le-Street on Friday (June 28). Sri Lanka were shot down for just 203 and du Plessis collaborated with Hashim Amla to seal the chase with an unbeaten 175-run stand. The win, however, comes a little too late with the side already out of contention.
“It is very, very bittersweet because you know that we’ve let a lot of people down and that was never the plan. So we will enjoy in the changing room. We will get together and we will enjoy the performance,” du Plessis said. “But I think when you go back, there will still be that hollow feeling of stuff that could have been in this tournament.
“But the crazy thing about this World Cup, it’s been a remarkable tournament where different teams on their day can beat anyone and it shows you that if you are not on top of your game, in international cricket, the margins are so small and we will look back now and look back at this tournament as being very disappointing, but there’s been a lot of games where the margins were so small. We haven’t been great this tournament, but we certainly haven’t been that far off the ball.”
The win was a refreshing sight for the South Africa fans. The players looked a lot more relaxed, the application was superb on the field even under pressure and the result reflected that. Du Plessis lauded his side for sticking through the tough phase when things didn’t go their way. “It’s been good throughout the tournament. I find that as tough as it’s been behind-the-scenes, there has still been a team behind, there’s been teamship behind the performances. So, that was never the issue. There was never anything behind-the-scenes that wasn’t working,” he stressed. “It was purely a case of us not being good enough to beat teams and us letting ourselves down on some other occasions and we have been outplayed one or two times, but we have tried to enjoy it.
“But in saying that, it’s not, it’s difficult to enjoy it all the time when you are not getting the performances that you want, you know. So then we try and get away from the game to make sure that there is still a bit of fun away from the game, so it was really good to see that we could enjoy ourselves on the field today as well.”
Du Plessis also acknowledged that the batsmen let the team down as they weren’t able to build on their starts. “I think chasing 200 is obviously a little bit easier than chasing 350, by starting your innings off, it is a completely different game, you can bat towards your own tempo,” he lamented. “With the bat, I have been saying it a lot, the guys have been batting well but only for short periods. And the basics of batting once again. If you get in, someone to bat through the innings, it then becomes easier. So, it’s just probably doing the basics better today than we’ve done in the tournament.”
South Africa’s last game is against Australia – a side that has already made it to the semifinals. While South Africa will look to make a statement before leaving the tournament, du Plessis felt the format of this tournament is a lot tougher. “This tournament is a lot tougher than it used to be. The quarterfinals — I remember the previous World Cup, I don’t think we played great cricket to get to the quarterfinals but we got to the final. So you can almost afford a few slip-ups in a tournament like that, but with this just semifinals tiers, you have to be on top of your game or you won’t make it,” he pointed out.
“We said to the guys this morning that there were two games left with this group of players playing together. There will be a few players signing off after this and we’ve got to make sure we put in our best performances for the guys who have served the game so well over the years, you know.
“So I think the guys will still be very motivated to do that. I think you could see today that we still came here with a massive intention of trying to fight as hard as we can, even though we are out of the competition. Yeah, it’s going to be for the other teams, it’s going to be exciting to watch, especially now seeing what England is going to do in their last two games. That will be exciting to see.”