South Africa’s unbeaten run in the World Cup was ended by a shock 38-run defeat by the Netherlands in Dharamsala.
In a match reduced to 43 overs a side by rain, the Proteas’ bowling effort unravelled after a dominant start, allowing the Dutch to post 245-8.
Captain Scott Edwards’ unbeaten 78 led a remarkable recovery from 82-5.
In reply, Temba Bavuma’s side slipped from 36-0 to 44-4 and were eventually bundled out for 207 in the last over.
It is the Netherlands’ first win of the tournament, and the first time they have beaten a Test-playing nation at a 50-over World Cup.
While the South African batting effort was disappointing, it was the bowling performance at the end of the Netherlands’ innings that started their demise.
Their discipline slipped as Edwards counter-attacked alongside lower-order batters Roelof van der Merwe, who made a 19-ball 29, and Aryan Dutt, who hit three sixes in his 23 not out, with the Netherlands blitzing 105 runs from the last 9.1 overs.
South Africa were visibly frustrated as they left the field at the halfway mark but they were still favourites, given their greater experience and form leading in to the game after thrashing Australia and Sri Lanka.
David Miller was the only Proteas top-order batter to offer any resistance with his composed 43, but his departure in the 31st over left his side struggling 145-7 before Keshav Maharaj’s entertaining 40 from number nine proved in vain.
While the result is a shock, South Africa are still in a decent position to qualify for the knockouts, having beaten Australia and Sri Lanka, and will look to bounce back against England in Mumbai on Saturday.
England are also going into the game on the back of a surprise defeat after losing to Afghanistan.
Sloppy bowling costs South Africa
Bavuma’s men had started their World Cup in stunning fashion, hitting a record total against Sri Lanka before demolishing Australia to earn themselves an early tag of title contenders.
And they started in the same way against the Netherlands, with the sublime Kagiso Rabada impressing with two early wickets, backed up by Lungi Ngidi and the ever-improving Marco Jansen, who also added two each to their tally.
The Dutch batters had no answers to their swing and consistency, and were tied down by the nagging accuracy of Keshav Maharaj’s spin – he finished with 1-38.
With the Netherlands on the ropes at 82-5 and then 140-7, only a truly woeful display of death bowling and fielding could have prevented South Africa from winning – and that is exactly what materialised.
Edwards, Van der Merwe and Dutt played aggressively and shifted the momentum, but a bowling attack as good as South Africa’s should have been able to withstand such pressure in a game in which they were such overwhelming favourites.
Instead, the body language slumped more and more after every wide, no-ball and boundary that was flayed from their inconsistent bowling.
One defeat does not define such a talented side, however, and they will be hoping that this is just a wobble that they might have needed to avoid complacency or pressure from expectation later in the tournament.
Netherlands’ bravery perseveres
Dutch sides have history with famous World Cup upsets in the shortest format.
They beat England in 2009 and last year produced another South African upset by knocking them out of the T20 competition in Australia.
But they had yet to make their mark in the 50-over contest, having only previously beaten Associate nations Scotland and Namibia, making their demolition of the Proteas all the more remarkable.
With Edwards leading from the front – his knock from number seven included 10 fours and a six – they were brave and resilient, refusing to surrender to the skill of Rabada or the pace and bounce of Ngidi and Jansen.
And with the ball their discipline embarrassed that of South Africa.
Bavuma and Quinton de Kock were measured in their opening approach, the latter in fine form after back-to-back hundreds in previous outings, but his dismissal by Colin Ackermann sparked the collapse in the eighth over.
The partnership of Heinrich Klaasen and Miller has destroyed many a bowling attack, and the latter was dropped on 23 by Bas de Leede to send a few more nerves into the Dutch camp.
But again they refused to be intimidated, with seamer Logan van Beek getting both breakthroughs in the middle overs as he finished with figures of 3-60. He was well supported by De Leede, Van der Merwe and Van Meekeren, who all took two wickets apiece.
This World Cup may be lacking in close, tense finishes, but its two shocks to England and now South Africa mean the group stage is still wide open.