TELFORD VICE in London
“SORRY guys,” Faf du Plessis said as he approached the South African reporters in the mixed zone at The Oval on Sunday.
South Africa had crashed out of the Champions Trophy minutes earlier, going down to India by eight wickets in a match that shape shifted dramatically in the 5.1 overs that covered the runouts of AB de Villiers and David Miller, and Du Plessis dragging a delivery onto his stumps.
And that from a team who went to the tournament having won 15 of their previous 19 one-day internationals, a purple patch that featured 5-0 thrashings of Australia and Sri Lanka.
“We probably played our worst game of cricket for a very long time and that is not great to know as a team,” Du Plessis said.
“We’ve been doing everything we should have.
“This whole year, we ticked all the boxes.”
That didn’t count for much on Sunday, when South Africa were again what they have gained a reputation for: soft under pressure.
“We have gone for a more aggressive approach and we wanted to play a similar style through this tournament,” Du Plessis said.
“We wanted to, when there was an opportunity in the game, transfer pressure back onto the opposition.
“That’s the last thing we did today.
“We didn’t do that at all and if you don’t do that, you are not going to give yourself the best chance.
“India, they are a team do that very well – when the moments are big, they raise their game.”
The Indians outplayed South Africa in every department and remain in the running to win their four major trophy in the past 10 years.
South Africa have been to 20 major tournaments since readmission in 1991, and won only one.
Much of the criticism of South Africa’s performance in an event in which they lost two of their three games has focused on De Villiers’ captaincy, some of it probably related to him scoring only 20 runs in three innings.
But Du Plessis said the dissatisfaction with De Villiers was misplaced.
“It’s so hard to put all this pressure on AB and almost blame him,” he said.
“I can certainly tell you he has led the team really well; he has done everything.
“Today the team let him down.
“I ran him out.
“There’s nothing that he did wrong today.
“We were beaten and not even by a better team — we just played our worst game of cricket in a while.
“Every guy in the team must take responsibility for not fulfilling his job today.”
Why that happened remains a mystery, even for Du Plessis.
“In this whole tournament, we haven’t played the cricket that we’ve played the whole year and the reason for that is unknown,” he said.
“I don’t have an answer for you.
“I thought I had that answer before this tournament.
“We were ready as a team.
“But in the last three games, these have been five or six out-of-10 performances and if you want to win a trophy you can’t be be fighting at 50 or 60%.”
However unhappy Du Plessis was at Sunday’s performance, it didn’t compare to his feelings after South Africa lost the 2015 World Cup semi-final to New Zealand.
“That was the lowest point of my career because I felt that was our time to win a tournament,” he said.
“We played a good game of cricket that night; we were right in it until the end.
“Today, I don’t feel the same.
“I just feel extremely disappointed with the way we played.
“We didn’t pitch up as a team.”
South Africa will need to pitch up a for more times before they leave England.
The T20 series starts next Wednesday and the test series on July 6.