Faf du Plessis did not look like a broken man in the post-match press conference but he was certainly hurting after losing to Bangladesh. Two defeats from two successive games in the World Cup was clearly not what he wanted for his side, one that had entered the tournament as a dark house for the title, but whereas the opening match defeat by England, the world's best team, was perhaps expected and forgivable, this defeat in a game many made them favourites for was a much drastic blow. "Gutted" was how South Africa's skipper described his feelings.
Their tournament just hasn't good going. Injuries have certainly stopped them but their two outings have been lacklustre and error strewn. The batting hasn't worked, with no batsman in either game making more than the 68 Quinton de Kock managed against England. Their bowling has been taken for two 300-plus scores on pitches which haven't been the batting favourable that they usually are at The Oval. As captain said, none of the three domains are functioning as they should be. "You have to find a way to make sure that you put in performances and we are just off in most areas," he said.
They could do with some fortune on the fitness front, mind. Hashim Amla, a important part of a batting line-up that looks short of class without him, missed this game to recover from the blow to the head he suffered against England. Dale Steyn is still not healthy and now, Lungi Ngidi suffered a hamstring issue after bowling just four overs which is expected to rule him out for seven to ten days. Amla and Steyn are hoping to come back for South Africa's next match against India but indications are that the former is more likely to make it than the latter.
Steyn's injury has been a issue as South Africa have been upfront about wanting to hit opponents hard with their battery of fast-bowlers. Unfortunately, they haven't managed to get them all on the park at the same time and with Ngidi's injury taking him out until at least the game against West Indies, it won't be in place for the match against India in Southampton on Wednesday either. "Any skipper would say that it's not easy, but I can't complain about it," du Plessis said.
"That's not going to change anything. I have to find a way. The coaching staff, the entire team, has to find a way. It is not going for us from an injuries point of view. As I said many times, our Plan 1 was to have all our fast bowlers bowling at the same time, and then we do have a very good bowling attack. To lose one, then you become an okay bowling attack, and now to lose two, there's pressure on, it changes completely the mix of how we set our team up. It was never part of the plan, but that's life. You've got to roll with the punches.
"Plan 1 is gone. It's gone because the Plan 1 was those bowlers playing together. Now you're moving into your all rounder region. You have two medium pace all-rounders and then you have Chris Morris that sits in between your fast bowlers and your medium pace bowlers. We have to really look at what we can do to try to be effective; is it playing all rounders together, do we play two spinners? Now it's reshuffling all our cards and see how best we can deal with it."
A key phase of Bangladesh's innings was the final four overs when they scored 54 runs, ruining South Africa's nice work of the preceding ten overs which looked as if it would restrict their opponents to a score of around 280. Chris Morris especially suffered harsh treatment, conceding 29 runs in his final two overs, with a succession of short balls disappearing to the boundary. Yorkers were conspicuous by their absence but that was apparently not by design.
"No, that wasn't the plan at all," du Plessis said. "The plan was to give yourself a lot of different options at the death. It was certainly not just to bowl short. I think pace off is what the bowlers tried more often than not because of the nature of the size of the square. But within that, you still need to make sure that you nail the yorkers, and today we missed our yorkers. Every time a bowler tried a yorker, it went for six. Then naturally what happens is you try and find your other skill, whether that's a short ball or a bouncer."
South Africa do have enough time to turn things around. They came into this tournament in good form and in du Plessis, who sounded a defiant tone after the game, they have a leader who will not give up. Does he believe South Africa can still win the World Cup? "I have to believe that. I wouldn't be South African if I said no," he said. "I'll go back and try and see how we can lift the spirits in the team. We're playing a strong team in India in their first game. We know we're not good enough at the moment and we have to turn it around. We won't be going back and just falling over, I can promise you that."