England captain Jos Buttler has taken his share of the blame for a historically bad defeat against South Africa, accepting he made a mistake by fielding first in the oppressive heat and humidity of Mumbai.
Things could hardly have gone worse for the defending champions, whose World Cup campaign is rapidly disappearing over the cliff edge after three losses in four, with the Proteas running away with a 229-run win.
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That was England’s heaviest ever defeat in terms of runs, while South Africa’s score of 7-399, featuring a glorious 61-ball hundred from Heinrich Klaasen, was a second undesired record.
Buttler decided to send the opposition in under fiercely exacting conditions, with the temperature peaking at 36 degrees and exacerbated by high humidity.
Jos Buttler looks on during England’s nightmare loss. Credit: Getty Images
“I think you always reflect after games and question your decisions,” Buttler said.
“With hindsight, with the physicality of that innings, potentially batting first would have been a better decision. It’s a decision I took at the time. I thought it was the right one.
Buttler has had to front up after a hat-trick of unimpressive outings so far, with a nine-wicket hammering by New Zealand and a shock defeat at the hands of unfancied Afghanistan already on the ledger.
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“It certainly leaves us in a tough position. There’s no room for error from here on in,” he acknowledged.
“It’s going to be incredibly difficult. We haven’t left ourselves any margin from this point in. But we’ll keep the belief. We’ll sit down and go again. That’s all you can do in this situation.”
Klaasen, despite clearly struggling in the stifling conditions, finished with 109 from 67 balls and put on 151 in 76 deliveries for the sixth wicket with allrounder Marco Jansen (75 not out from 42 balls), the highest run-rate in a 150-run stand in the history of the men’s World Cup.
“I had to dig really, really deep there. I didn’t have any energy left,” said Klaasen.
“My partner Marco played a big part of that. He told me that he’s got me and that I’m not allowed to walk off the field if I don’t score 100.
“It was like just breathing in hot air. Every time you try to run it’s just sapping more and more energy and then at the end of the day your body just doesn’t want to work with you anymore. It was just like almost running in a sauna for the whole innings.
“But you’ve got to dig deep for your country as well, I’ve worked my whole life for it, so it’s a great moment.”
England’s reply never got going as they slipped to 6-68 before a late rally from Mark Wood (43 not out) and Gus Atkinson (35) put on 70 for what proved to be the last wicket, with injured Reece Topley not able to bat.
For South Africa, Reeza Hendricks, in the side for ill captain Temba Bavuma, made an eye-catching 85 from 75 balls and put on 121 with Rassie van der Dussen (60 from 61 balls) for the second wicket.
Markram added 42 while David Miller managed only five before Topley (3-88) removed both batters.
Klaasen and Jansen then went on the attack as South Africa scored 143 in the last 10 overs of the innings to record the highest total ever against England at a World Cup.
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