South Africa may have to win all of their remaining group-stage matches to earn a place in the Cricket World Cup semi-finals and Faf du Plessis' side face two tricky challenges this week.

The Proteas lost their first three games at this tournament, belatedly getting a point on the board with a washout against West Indies before picking up their first win thanks to a comfortable triumph over Afghanistan last week.

But things certainly do not get any easier for South Africa over the coming seven days, as they take on an unbeaten New Zealand and a mercurial Pakistan, who desperately need a win themselves following Sunday's resounding defeat to fierce rivals India.

Virat Kohli's side look the strongest all-round outfit in the competition and they should pick up another victory against Afghanistan, who also face hosts England in a tough week for the only team yet to claim a point.

 

FIXTURES

Monday 17 June:  West Indies v Bangladesh (Taunton) - 1030 BST start

Tuesday 18 June:  England v Afghanistan (Old Trafford) - 1030

Wednesday 19 June:  New Zealand v South Africa (Edgbaston) - 1030

Thursday 20 June:  Australia v Bangladesh (Trent Bridge) - 1030

Friday 21 June:  England v Sri Lanka (Headingley) - 1030

Saturday 22 June:  India v Afghanistan (the Rose Bowl) - 1030, West Indies v New Zealand (Old Trafford) - 1330

Sunday 23 June:  Pakistan v South Africa (Lord's) - 1030

 

THE WEEK'S BIG GAME

With over half their matches played and only three points to their name, South Africa can ill-afford any slip-ups. Their first assignment of the week comes against the Black Caps on Wednesday, in a repeat of the thrilling semi-final from four years ago that saw New Zealand squeeze through. If the Proteas can dish out a first defeat of the tournament to Kane Williamson's side, they will go into Sunday's clash against an erratic Pakistan with renewed hope of securing a top-four finish.

STANDINGS

1. Australia - 8pts from 5 games, Net Run Rate +0.812
2. New Zealand - 7pts from 4 games, NRR +2.163
3. India - 7pts from 4 games, NRR +1.029
4. England - 6pts from 4 games, NRR +1.557
5. Sri Lanka - 4pts from 5 games, NRR -1.778
6. West Indies - 3pts from 4 games, NRR +0.666
7. South Africa - 3pts from 5 games, NRR -0.208
8. Bangladesh - 3pts from 4 games, NRR -0.714
9. Pakistan - 3pts from 5 games, NRR -1.933
10. Afghanistan - 0pts from 4 games, NRR -1.638

 

LEADING RUN-SCORERS

1: Aaron Finch (Aus) - 343
2: Rohit Sharma (Ind) - 319
3: David Warner (Aus) - 281

 

LEADING WICKET-TAKERS

=1: Mohammad Amir (Pak), Mitchell Starc (Aus) - 13
2: Pat Cummins (Aus) - 11

Imran Tahir has "single-handedly" made South Africa a strong team in the past two years, according to captain Faf du Plessis.

Spinner Tahir claimed figures of 4-29 from his seven overs as the Proteas claimed their first win at this year's Cricket World Cup by resoundingly beating Afghanistan by nine wickets in Cardiff.

The 40-year-old, who will step down from international cricket after the competition, tore through Afghanistan after the second rain delay, helping restrict them to 125 on a pitch that was not conducive to spin.

"Tahir has probably single-handedly made us a very strong team for the last two years with his ability to get wickets at any stage, his control, so much variation," said Du Plessis after the match.

"Even on a pitch like today when the boundaries are really small and the ball's not spinning much, somehow he still finds a way. That's the difference between the good ones and the great."

The Proteas laboured in reaching a DLS-amended target of 127, with Quinton de Kock scoring 68 off 72 and the struggling Hashim Amla requiring 83 deliveries to make an unbeaten 41 in their 28.4 overs before getting over the line thanks to a huge Andile Phehlukwayo six.

"Naturally, Quinton always plays quite freely but it was important for him to see off the new ball," said Du Plessis. "We needed a 60 or 70-run partnership and we could work on the run rate later.

"It was important for Amla to get among the runs. The next four games, net run rate is not going to play a massive role if you win those games. We need Hashim to score runs for us, so I'm just happy for him to get a not out and get some runs on the board."

Afghanistan replaced Najibullah Zadran, who posted scores of 51 and 43 in their opening two World Cup matches, with Asghar Afghan for the match at Sophia Gardens.

Captain Gulbadin Naib lamented his team's failure to correct their errors from previous matches and suggested Najibullah could return to the line-up for Tuesday's meeting with England at Old Trafford after Afghan was out for a duck.

"We need to play much better cricket. We did well in the opening overs but we repeated the same mistakes again," said Naib.

"We have a lot of batsmen with Rashid Khan coming in at nine, but we need the lower-middle order to push the scoreboard.

"Asghar is a senior player, that's why we gave him a chance. Najib is an outstanding batsman, we'll have him in the team in the upcoming matches."

Quinton de Kock scored 68 as South Africa eased to their first victory of the Cricket World Cup, hammering Afghanistan by nine wickets in Cardiff. 

South Africa captain Faf du Plessis has challenged his team to save their Cricket World Cup skins by taking ownership of a group-stage crisis.

The 34-year-old said hope alone would get the Proteas nowhere and instructed his slow-starting stars to search within themselves and pull out a string of performances.

Defeats to England, Bangladesh and India - and a rained-off clash with West Indies - have left South Africa in a dire position and with Du Plessis demanding wins from all five of their remaining matches.

On Saturday they face Afghanistan in Cardiff, and another off-day could inflict a fatal blow to their semi-final hopes.

Du Plessis said he has experienced no greater challenge in his tenure as captain, and his man-management skills have been put to an extreme test.

"It's just been checking in with every guy individually ... and then just making sure that I make it clear to them that there needs to be purpose in what's coming up. You can't just hope for things to change," Du Plessis said on Friday.

"Hope's a very dangerous thing for me; you either make it happen [or you don't], the fact that you need to get yourself out of that space as quick as possible.

"And just finding different keys and different players where I feel that they can lead better in different departments, where they can take more responsibility, where they can take more ownership.

"So it's about trying to unlock players' best that is lying somewhere underneath them. Hopefully we can see a little bit of that coming out in the next few games."

South Africa will be hoping for clear skies in Cardiff and to find the display that earns a first victory, with New Zealand, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Australia their remaining opponents.

"From a challenge, myself as a leader, this has been right up there," Du Plessis said. "But I suppose that's what the last two, three years of captaining this side has prepared me for.

"Whether it's good situations or bad situations, you try to mature as much as you can as a captain to try and be ready for when it's really, really tough because then the team looks to the leaders in the side.

"So it's a hard time, but it's also a time that I'm really owning up to the fact that I need to step up and make sure that I lead the team in a time when they need me."

Faf du Plessis has told his South Africa team they have no wiggle room following three World Cup defeats and must win their five remaining group games to stay in the hunt.

Pre-tournament ambitions have been shaken by losses against England, Bangladesh and India, and the Proteas will face the only other side without a win so far when they tackle Afghanistan on Saturday.

Proteas captain Du Plessis said a late decision would be made on the availability of pace bowler Lungi Ngidi, who has been sidelined by a hamstring injury.

He earmarked Rashid Khan as the big bowling danger in the Afghanistan ranks, calling him "probably the best leg spinner in the world in T20 cricket" and telling his batsmen to play a careful game and "annihilate that threat".

Du Plessis said his players must put early defeats out of their mind, adding: "If we carry those ghosts of the last week with us, then it's going to be tough to get out of the hole."

South Africa's semi-final hopes look bleak, and Afghanistan would love to add to their problems by causing an upset in Cardiff. Afghanistan captain Gulbadin Naib indicated Rashid should be fit to play after recovering from being hit on the head by a bouncer from New Zealand's Lockie Ferguson last Saturday in Taunton.

TOURNAMENT SO FAR

South Africa have had an awful time of things, with injuries biting and players under-performing. Their only point has come from the rained-off match against West Indies, who made the Proteas top order look brittle again before rain came in Southampton. Afghanistan came in hope of making a positive impression, dreaming of the semi-finals. A couple of wins against the more established nations must now be their moderated ambition, and they will fancy rattling South Africa.

WHAT THEY SAID

Faf du Plessis (South Africa captain): "Everyone has written the team off. So there's our backs against the wall as a team. So hopefully that will allow the guys to come out and play the way we want them to play and the way we can play. And I believe if we truly do that we'll be a dangerous team. But we haven't fully unlocked the potential that we do have in our side."

Gulbadin Naib (Afghanistan captain): "If you look at our last three games and how we played, we didn't click in any department. We just need a good start to the match or to the innings. South Africa also lost three games. They're also struggling to make a good start. It's going to be a good game for cricket, I'm hoping. If we play good cricket, obviously in the end you will have a good result."

OPTA FACTS

- This will be the first match between South Africa and Afghanistan in ODI cricket. They have met on the international stage twice in the T20 format, with the Proteas winning both matches.

- South Africa have three losses and a no-result from their first four matches at this World Cup. A win on Saturday and they will be in the exact same position after five games as the 1992 Pakistan team who went on to win the tournament.

- Hashmatullah Shahidi needs 54 runs to reach 1,000 in ODIs, and he would become the ninth Afghanistan player to reach the milestone. He heads into this match after scoring 59 against New Zealand last time out.

- South Africa spinner Imran Tahir is set to bowl in an ODI for the 100th time. He has bowled 180 balls in this World Cup and is yet to be hit for a six. He is the only spinner to have bowled 100 or more balls and not be hit for a six at the tournament.

South Africa hooker Malcolm Marx will take a six-month "sabbatical" in Japan after the Rugby World Cup, the Lions announced on Friday.

The 24-year-old has been linked with a move to the Docomo Red Hurricanes, who play in Japan's Top League.

Marx's destination in Japan was not disclosed by the Lions and SA Rugby, but they said he would head there after this year's global tournament, which begins in September.

Lions chief executive Rudolf Straeuli said the franchise had been determined to "look after his wellbeing".

Although Marx will have a spell overseas, he has agreed an extended contract with his Johannesburg-based Super Rugby side that will keep him with the Lions until 2021.

A statement confirming the deal said: "Lions Rugby Company, together with SA Rugby, and the newly established contracting model have been able to retain the services of the outstanding Springbok hooker by ensuring the player’s career is managed and sustained.

"Marx will be able to enjoy a temporary release after the 2019 Rugby World Cup for a sabbatical in Japan and he will return to South Africa and the Lions in June 2020."

South Africa coach Rassie Erasmus said it was "very good news indeed" that Marx had committed to return to play for the Lions after his spell in Japan.

Marx added: "For now I am totally focused on the Lions' Super Rugby campaign and forming part of the Springboks for 2019."

At the 1992 Cricket World Cup, Pakistan produced an impressive and unlikely turnaround in their fortune to secure glory.

Imran Khan's cornered tigers played more like kittens when bowled out by England for 74 in Adelaide, only to be saved by rain. Defeats to India and South Africa followed, leaving a team minus key bowler Waqar Younis through injury and led by a patched-up captain on life support.

However, the resuscitation began with a 48-run triumph over Australia at the WACA, signalling the start of a five-match winning streak that climaxed with the final in Melbourne. From seemingly certain to miss out on the knockout stages, they rallied to be crowned champions.

This year's edition of the tournament has reverted to a similar structure to the one used 27 years ago - and, once again, Pakistan find themselves in a precarious situation.

Wednesday's 41-run defeat to Australia leaves Sarfraz Ahmed's struggling side sitting on three points after four games. Their top-four hopes are not yet over, but Pakistan missed a glorious opportunity at Taunton, particularly after their last match - against Sri Lanka - was washed out.

Make that several opportunities actually, as catches went down in the field and promising partnerships in their run chase were curtailed by poor shot selection. This was a game where Pakistan once again showed their Jekyll-and-Hyde nature when the situation called for consistency and control.

They won the toss and bowled first in seam-friendly conditions yet had to wait until the start of the 23rd over to get a breakthrough. The recalled Shaheen Afridi was too often off target and while both Mohammad Amir and Wahab Riaz had their moments, Australia's openers managed to put on a partnership worth 146.

Amir eventually made the breakthrough, picking up the first of his five wickets as Pakistan improved considerably in the second half of the innings, bowling their opponents out for 307 with an over to spare.

After Fakhar Zaman fell early in the reply, the rest of the top five all made starts only to perish in frustrating fashion. Babar Azam (30) looked in glorious touch before falling into Kane Richardson's short-ball trap, Mohammad Hafeez (46) only found a fielder with a full toss from Aaron Finch and Imam-ul-Haq (53) gloved what would have been a wide through to wicketkeeper Alex Carey.

Sarfraz revived a flagging chase with the aid of some lusty blows from the lower order – Hasan Ali made 32 from just 15 deliveries, while Wahab once again relished a battle against Australia, making 45 – but the innings was summed up by the final wicket, the skipper run out by Glenn Maxwell's direct hit at the non-striker's end following confusion over a single.

"We conceded too many runs first 20 overs, except for Amir the other bowlers did not bowl well, 270-80 was par," Sarfraz said at the presentation ceremony, before going on to confirm they were not much better with the bat.

"If we want to win, the fop four have to make runs. Imam made fifty, Babar made 30, but the top four must score runs."

The talismanic Imran found a way to bring his troops together in '92 and Sarfraz must oversee a similar recovery, starting with Sunday's huge clash against India at Old Trafford.

Their rivals will relish the opportunity to push Pakistan closer to the exit door in a campaign that, bar a stunning and unexpected win over hosts England, has yet to suggest they have what it takes to be crowned champions again.

Warren Gatland said he could not turn down a third stint as British and Irish Lions head coach as he has "unfinished business" to settle in South Africa.

Gatland ruled out taking charge of the Lions again after the tour of New Zealand two years ago, which he said he "hated" in part due to the press and negativity in his homeland.

The New Zealander, who will end his tenure as Wales head coach after the Rugby World Cup, has had a change of heart and will lead the Lions in 2021.

Gatland was forwards coach when the Lions were beaten 2-1 by the Springboks a decade ago and the 55-year-old is determined to settle a score.

He said: "I love the Lions as a concept. There were parts of the New Zealand tour that were incredibly challenging.

"It's probably the hardest thing that you'll ever do as a coach in terms of planning and preparation and the scrutiny of the press is always something that's at the forefront of the Lions tour.

"But one of the things about when I reflect back on New Zealand is the hospitality that we had there, the atmosphere in the games that was there was incredible.

"And being part of the Lions and the opportunity to go to South Africa and potentially finish some unfinished business, I couldn't turn my back on the challenge."

Gatland masterminded a series win over Australia in 2013 prior to a 1-1 draw with the All Blacks and he does not expect to take charge of the Lions again after facing South Africa.

Asked if it will be his last Lions tour, Gatland replied: "I think so, yeah. The challenge for me as the head coach is to go undefeated in a Test series.

"I've been privileged to be involved in what will be four tours. I appreciate the support I've had from someone like [2009 head coach] Ian McGeechan. Being head coach is incredibly special and something I'm proud of."

Warren Gatland has been confirmed as head coach of the British and Irish Lions for the 2021 tour of South Africa.

The departing Wales boss had previously ruled out a third successive stint with the Lions, stating he "hated the press and negativity" he experienced on the tour of New Zealand two years ago.

Yet after masterminding a 1-1 draw with the All Blacks in his homeland, the 55-year-old will lead the Lions in a series against the Springboks - eight years after he was first in charge for a 2-1 triumph in Australia.

Gatland will end his long tenure with Six Nations champions Wales after the Rugby World Cup in Japan later this year and starts his Lions role on August 1, 2020.

"I'm hugely honoured and delighted to lead the Lions again," said Gatland.

"It is exciting and a great challenge to coach the best players from the four home nations. The Lions rightly have a truly special place in the game and I jumped at the chance to be involved again when I was approached about the role.

"South Africa is a special place to play rugby. They have some of the most iconic stadiums in the world which will be packed full of passionate fans, and the Springboks have shown in recent times that they are back to being one of the dominant forces in the game.

"Having toured there in 2009 I know the scale of the task ahead of us – playing in South Africa presents a number of unique challenges such as playing at altitude, while the Boks will always be physical, aggressive and highly motivated.

"History tells you it's a tough place to tour, but I am 100 per cent confident that we can go there and win – I would not be here if I thought differently.

"I'm delighted to now have everything in place to begin full-time in August 2020 as that gives me the best possible chance to plan for South Africa, but for the time being my focus is entirely on the Rugby World Cup and delivering a successful campaign for Wales."

Gatland could make history by becoming the first Lions coach to lead tours of Australia, New Zealand and South Africa without suffering a series defeat.

Faf du Plessis has reiterated his support for AB de Villiers but insisted the controversy over his attempted South Africa comeback is not negatively affecting the team.

South Africa's hopes of progression in the Cricket World Cup appear as dark the clouds that surrounded the Rose Bowl in their rained off clash against West Indies on Monday.

And back home the rumbles of discontent continued to grow following the revelation that De Villiers' approach to return to the team prior to the tournament was halted by selectors.

Du Plessis continues to back the 35-year-old, who stepped away from the game last year, but stated the emergence of the story had not had a negative impact.

"It was just a conversation, a phonecall the night before the team got announced," said the captain after just 45 balls could be bowled against the Windies at Southampton.

"I said to him, I think it is too late but I will check in with the coach and the selectors to get their opinion.

"When I spoke the next day, they all agreed that it was way, way too late to change the team.

"We do feel like the news came in and went through the team. It didn't have a huge impact.

"But it is stuff like that you feel can give you direction in your team and give you purpose to focus on what lies ahead."

However, even in the short time play was possible against West Indies, the cracks that saw the Proteas start their campaign with three straight defeats were on show.

Hashim Amla found himself caught in the slip cordon for the second successive game without hitting double figures, but his captain has backed him to come good over the remaining five must-win games.

Du Plessis added: "He will be disappointed he got out, but he has been hitting the ball really well in the nets so we just are hoping it's around the corner for him.

"It is tough on a wicket like that, opening up the innings, you need a bit of luck to go your way.

"So like most of our batters, it's a case of getting in and getting the starts converted into runs."

South Africa move away from Southampton with hopes they can achieve their first win of the tournament against Afghanistan in Cardiff on Saturday.

South Africa's slim hopes of reaching the Cricket World Cup semi-finals were dented further as their match with West Indies was washed out on Monday after only 45 deliveries at the Rose Bowl. 

Pakistan face two huge matches at the Cricket World Cup this week, including a meeting with their biggest rivals.

Having upset England, Pakistan saw their match against Sri Lanka abandoned, making their potential passage to the semi-finals more difficult.

They will face two big tests this week, firstly against Australia, before taking on India in a highly anticipated clash in Manchester.

Omnisport takes a look at what the next week has in store, along with the standings and key statistics from the tournament to date.

 

FIXTURES

Monday 10 June: South Africa v West Indies (Rose Bowl, Southampton) - 1030 BST start

Tuesday 11 June: Bangladesh v Sri Lanka (County Ground, Bristol) - 1030

Wednesday 12 June: Australia v Pakistan (County Ground, Taunton) - 1030

Thursday 13 June: India v New Zealand (Trent Bridge, Nottingham) - 1030

Friday 14 June: England v West Indies (Rose Bowl, Southampton) - 1030

Saturday 15 June: Sri Lanka v Australia (The Oval, London) - 1030, South Africa v Afghanistan (Sophia Gardens, Cardiff) - 1330

Sunday 16 June: India v Pakistan (Old Trafford, Manchester) - 1030

 

THE WEEK'S BIG GAME

The end of the week is promising to provide one of the biggest matches of the tournament. Rivals India and Pakistan will meet at Old Trafford in Manchester in what looks like a blockbuster encounter. While both will undoubtedly want a win, it could be nearing desperation time for Pakistan, who have one victory from three games and also face Australia this week.

STANDINGS

1. New Zealand - 6pts from 3 games, Net Run Rate +2.163
2. England - 4pts from 3 games, NRR +1.307
3. India - 4pts from 2 games, NRR +0.539
4. Australia - 4pts from 3 games, NRR +0.483
5. Sri Lanka - 3pts from 3 games, NRR -1.517
6. Pakistan - 3pts from 3 games, NRR -2.412
7. West Indies - 2pts from 2 games, NRR +2.054
8. Bangladesh - 2pts from 3 games, NRR -0.714
9. South Africa - 0pts from 3 games, NRR -0.952
10. Afghanistan - 0pts from 3 games, NRR -1.493

 

LEADING RUN-SCORERS

1: Shakib Al Hasan (Ban) - 260
2: Jason Roy (Eng) - 215
3: Jos Buttler (Eng) - 185

 

LEADING WICKET-TAKERS

1: Lockie Ferguson (NZ) - 8
=2: Matt Henry (NZ), Mitchell Starc (Aus) - 7

While it may feel as if the Cricket World Cup is just starting to warm up, South Africa must fear they are already in danger of being left out in the cold in the battle to reach the knockout stages.

Monday's meeting with West Indies in Southampton appears to be make or break for Faf du Plessis' squad following three straight defeats. Lose another in the round-robin section and their hopes of progressing look bleak at best.

The Proteas were no match for hosts England in the tournament opener and while losing to India in their most recent outing was hardly a surprise, the setback against Bangladesh sandwiched in between those two games has left them still without a point to their name.

With six fixtures remaining, they know they must turn around their campaign - and fast.

However, West Indies are not a team you want to face when you're up against it. Batting was seen as their stronger suit coming into the event, yet their quick bowlers have been the ones to catch the eye in their two outings to date.

Utilising the short ball superbly, they roughed up Pakistan in a one-sided victory and then had Australia on the ropes at 38-4, only for Steve Smith and Nathan Coulter-Nile to engineer a recovery for the reigning world champions.

West Indies will feel they missed an opportunity against Australia, when they fell 15 runs short in their chase, but may relish the chance to land a potential knockout blow on a fragile South Africa team just desperate to stay alive.


TOURNAMENT SO FAR

Things have not gone to plan so far for the Proteas, who must decide whether to stick or twist when it comes to selection. The media focus on the absent AB de Villiers - who was ready to make a return to international duty, only to be overlooked by the selectors - has not helped.

South Africa failed to chase down totals in excess of 300 in their first two outings, yet batting first failed to result in a turnaround in their fortunes against India on Wednesday.

As for West Indies, they pummelled Pakistan and came up just short against Australia, with both of their games taking place at Trent Bridge.

It will be interesting to see if a similar tactic of short-pitched bowling works so effectively at a different venue, particularly one where India's spinners prospered against South Africa.


WHAT THEY SAID

"It's [India] a game that I really hoped that we would win. There was a lot on that game. It was going to give us some breathing space. So now we've just got a stiff challenge ahead of us, but we're ready to stand up, rise up to it." - South Africa quick Kagiso Rabada.

"We are obviously confident, but we have to respect South Africa as well. They are a good side. They have lost three games. We know they have got world-class players so we can't underestimate their ability and we have to go out and play hard and smart cricket and stick to our game plans." - West Indies assistant coach Roddy Estwick.


OPTA FACTS

- South Africa and West Indies have split the last four ODIs between the teams, though the latter won the most recent fixture, in June 2016, by 100 runs.

- The Proteas have claimed victory in four of their six matches against West Indies at the World Cup, including their previous three encounters.

- Shai Hope has reached 50 on 16 occasions in ODIs since the start of 2017, including a knock of 68 last time out against Australia.

Kagiso Rabada sees little point in South Africa complaining about their injury woes as they attempt to get their Cricket World Cup campaign back on track against West Indies.

The Proteas face a potentially make-or-break clash in Hampshire after losing their opening three matches to England, Bangladesh and India.

South Africa's cause has not been helped by the fact Dale Steyn was ruled out of the tournament with a shoulder injury, while Lungi Ngidi missed the India match with a hamstring problem and remains a major doubt for the Windies contest.

In contrast to South Africa's struggles, the Windies came into the tournament fit and firing but Rabada insists the team will never feel sorry for themselves.

"I wouldn't say it's jealousy. I think that we have to deal with what we have. There's no point in complaining about it," he said.

"Unfortunately, you know, we've had quite a few problems in this tournament regarding injury.

"So we've had to work our way around it and we're going to have to work our way around it for the next game. There's no point in complaining."

Rabada took 2-39 in the six-wicket loss to India and, while the deck may be stacked against them, he is confident South Africa can rise to the challenge.

"We'd just lost two games on the bounce and there was a lot of emphasis on that game," he added, when told he appeared to have a fire about him against India.

"It's a game that I really hoped that we would win. There was a lot on that, on that game. It was going to give us some breathing space. 

"So now we've just got a stiff challenge ahead of us, but we're ready to stand up, rise up to it."

The Windies are also looking to rebound after following an opening-match hammering of Pakistan with a 15-run loss to Australia.

In both matches, West Indies' bowling attack impressed with both Pakistan dismissed for a dismal 105 and Australia failing to make 300.

Assistant coach Roddy Estwick says the team must now do better in the crucial moments.

"Before the start of the tournament, everybody was saying that teams are going to make 360, 380, some teams will make 400, some teams will make 500," he said.

"We bowled both teams out for under 300 runs, so we are very happy with the way the bowlers have executed [their plans].

"What we must do is play the one percenters a bit better and I'm sure if we did that in the last game, we would have won the game. It's nothing to do with the bowlers. We are all in it together. 

"We are not going to single out the bowlers and say the bowlers did a poor job, or the batsmen did a poor job, it is a team. If you are looking for excuses in the cricket game, you can find it wherever you look."

Cricket South Africa (CSA) has revealed captain Faf du Plessis backed retired star AB de Villiers' late bid to be included in the Proteas' Cricket World Cup squad.

De Villiers retired from international cricket last year but reports emerged this week that he had attempted to return for the ongoing World Cup in England but was turned away.

The 35-year-old was not included in the squad and South Africa have subsequently lost their opening three matches, as well as suffering several early injury problems.

Chief selector Linda Zondi has now confirmed CSA's decision, explaining that De Villiers was not considered due to his absence from prior ODI matches.

However, Du Plessis and coach Ottis Gibson were both keen to have De Villiers back, according to Zondi, who insists he does not regret the call.

"I pleaded with AB de Villiers not to retire in 2018," Zondi said in a statement.

"Although there was a perception that he was picking and choosing when to play - which was not true - I did give him the option to plan and monitor his season to get him to the World Cup fresh and in a good space.

"We made it clear that he would have to play during the home tours against Sri Lanka and Pakistan to be considered for selection, instead he signed to play in the Pakistan and Bangladesh Premier Leagues respectively.

"He turned down the offer and said he was at peace with his decision to retire.

"For Faf du Plessis and Ottis Gibson to share AB's desire to be included in the squad on the day we announced our World Cup squad on April 18 was a shock to all of us.

"AB left a big vacuum when he retired; we had a year to find players at franchise level to fill the gap. We had players who put in the hard work, who put up their hands and deserved to be given the opportunity to go to the World Cup.

"The decision was based on principle; we had to be fair to the team, the selection panel, our franchise system and players.

"At no point in the year that he had retired did he make himself available for selection. It was no option when I received the news on the day of the squad announcement, our squad was finalised and confirmed.

"AB is undoubtedly one of the best players in the world, but above all else, we have to stay true to our morals and principles. There is no regret in the decision."

De Villiers was quick to turn attention to on-field matters with South Africa struggling to stay in the World Cup.

He tweeted on Thursday: "All that's important is that we should all focus on supporting the team at the World Cup.

"There is a long way to go and I believe the boys can still go all the way."

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