Woeful England slump to their heaviest-ever ODI defeat

Woeful England slump to their heaviest-ever ODI defeat as they lose to South Africa by 229 runs to leave their World Cup title defence hanging by a thread

  • England need to win all their remaining games – but even that may be academic
  • Their bowlers looked bedraggled as South Africa posted 399 for seven
  • England could only muster 170 in reply as their big hitters all failed to ignite  

England’s World Cup defence plumbed new depths on Saturday night as they conceded the biggest one-day total in their history against a rampant South Africa, then slumped to their heaviest defeat.

All out for 170 in 22 overs, they went down by 229 runs, surpassing by eight a defeat by Australia at Melbourne less than a year ago. It really was that grim.

Mathematically, they retain a slim chance of reaching next month’s semi-finals. Realistically, they look cooked – almost literally after Jos Buttler made the bizarre decision to field first in Mumbai’s sapping heat and humidity.

As England wilted, the South Africans, led by Heinrich Klaasen’s murderous century, burned their way to 399 for seven – one more than New Zealand made at The Oval in 2015. There were 13 sixes, 38 fours, and a general sense that England are no longer a 50-over force to reckon with.

Even if they win their next five games – a big if, since their opponents will include India, Australia and Pakistan – they suffered such a grievous blow to their net run-rate here that it is likely to be academic.

South Africa crushed England by 229 runs to strike a serious blow to the reigning champions’ World Cup hopes 

England welcomed back Ben Stokes after his hip injury but he couldn’t prevent them slumping to a demoralising defeat in Mumbai 

Serious questions will be asked of captain Jos Buttler for deciding to field first at the toss

The next four weeks could be full of long and soulful flights round a nation who are delighting in their haplessness. Perhaps they’ll fit in some golf.

Any illusions England might have harboured of scaling Everest were ended during a disastrous batting powerplay in which Jonny Bairstow, Joe Root, Dawid Malan and Ben Stokes all came and went with just 38 on the board.

Stokes had, in fairness, warned that he was ‘not the Messiah’, though even the Messiah might have struggled to take home the two points on a night when England looked anything but double world champions.

Buttler and Harry Brook fell in the same over to Gerald Coetzee, supposely the weak link in South Africa’s attack, to make it 68 for six, and only some tailend frolics from Gus Atkinson and Mark Wood spared an even heavier defeat.

Above all, this felt like the moment England’s fighting talk here in India was exposed as so much hot air. Appropriate, really: Mumbai combined 36 degree heat with 65% humidity, and even Klaasen had to take regular breathers during his brutal display.

They arrived ranked fifth, a reflection of the extent to which 50-over cricket has been marginalised since Morgan lifted the World Cup at Lord’s in 2019, and in the meantime have slipped to sixth. But they insisted the rankings were irrelevant.

They passed off their nine-wicket thrashing by New Zealand on the tournament’s opening day as a blip, even though alarm bells were already ringing.

Dawid Malan walks off following his dismissal, one of several in quick succession for England

South Africa’s Lungi Ngidi (right) celebrates after taking the wicket of Jonny Bairstow

Bairstow is usually an England dangerman but failed to make much impression in Mumbai

Ben Stokes reacts to his dismissal for just five runs as England’s collapse continued

England’s heaviest ODI defeats  

229 runs vs South Africa, Mumbai 2023

221 runs vs Australia, Melbourne 2022

219 runs vs Sri Lanka, Colombo 2018

165 runs vs West Indies, St Vincent 1994

165 runs vs Pakistan, Karachi 2005

162 runs vs Australia, Melbourne 1999

They convinced themselves that victory over a mediocre Bangladesh team in Dharamshala had got things back on track.

And they resorted to the old cliché that the ‘opposition are allowed to play well’ after they misread the conditions in Delhi and were outplayed by an Afghanistan side who have lost all their other matches.

Well, they misread the conditions again here – spectacularly so. It wasn’t simply that the team fielding first were always likely to be driven to exhaustion. But South Africa had just lost, batting second, to the Netherlands – as England had to Afghanistan.

The play, surely, was to bat first, get runs on the board against a team facing renewed accusations of choking, and set about rebuilding the World Cup campaign.

Instead, the house fell down. After removing Quinton de Kock with the game’s second ball, Topley left the field with a damaged left index finger that may yet ruin his World Cup. 

Heinrich Klaasen was South Africa’s hero with a brilliant century in tough conditions 

Klaasen smashed England’s bowlers all around the Wankhede Stadium as he made 109

The oppressive heat and humidity in Mumbai left batsmen and bowlers alike feeling the strain

Biggest margins of defeat at World Cup 

275 runs – Afghanistan lost to Australia 2015

257 runs – Bermuda lost to India 2007

257 runs – West Indies lost to South Africa 2015

256 runs – Namibia lost to Australia 2003

243 runs – Bermuda lost to Sri Lanka 2007

231 runs – Netherlands lost to South Africa 2011

229 runs – England lost to South Africa 2023

Adil Rashid somehow fought off nausea to get through 10 overs, while David Willey – one of three changes made by England after coach Matthew Mott promised ‘not to throw out the baby with the bath water’ – limped off with cramp.

All the while, South Africa’s batsmen took it in turns to inflict misery. Rassie van der Dussen made 60 off 61, and Reeza Hendricks – a replacement for captain Temba Bavuma, who was said to be ill – 85 off 75.

At 243 for five, after Topley returned to remove Aiden Markram and David Miller in successive overs, England had a sniff. But it was extinguished during a stand of 151 in 12.4 between Klaasen – arguably the most ferocious hitter in world cricket – and Marco Jansen, in which the ball kept flying higher and further.

Mark Wood conceded more runs in seven overs – 76 – than he had ever conceded in 10, and Topley ended up shipping 88. Only Rashid and Gus Atkinson, who bowled Klaasen with a leg-stump yorker on his World Cup debut, escaped a mauling.

England looked demoralised, and the mood spilled over into their batting. Bairstow was caught at deep square leg for 10, Root at leg slip for two, and Malan down the leg side for six. Stokes, on his long-awaited return, could only chip a low return catch to Kagiso Rabada for five.

Reece Topley had taken three wickets for England either side of treatment on a finger injury

Adil Rashid took two key wickets but South Africa were able to inflict plenty of punishment 

Buttler unleashed a couple of shots in anger, then fiddled at Coetzee, who quickly trapped Brook. A crowd of 28,000 roared their approval.

Atkinson, with 35 off 21, and Wood, with a raucous 43 off 17, including five sixes, lifted the total to 170. 

But when Atkinson was bowled by the left-arm spin of Keshav Maharaj, and the injured Topley remained in the dressing-room, England had slumped to one of the most significant defeats in their white-ball history.

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