New Delhi: Summing up South Africa's dismal show in World T20, captain Faf du Plessis said small mistakes like conceding loads of extras in the games against England and the West Indies made a big impact and led to his team's early exit from the mega-event.
The Proteas, one of the strong contenders, conceded 26 extras against England including 20 wides while defending 229 for four, and eventually lost. Against the Caribbeans, they could not defend 122, losing the match in the last over having conceded 10 extras that had eight wides.
Du Plessis said even as "T20 cricket is sometimes a gamble", there are a few things that teams can control.
"Sometimes Chris Gayle rocks up and wins the game for you. But one thing I can say is that we were poor in our extras. Every game we had more wides and no balls than the opposition and that's always the basic and controllable," Du Plessis said after his side's "bitter-sweet" eight-wicket win over Sri Lanka in their last game of Super 10 here last night.
"It's your job is to try and get the ball inside that line and if you do it less than the opposition, it's generally five and 10 runs that you don't have to score with the bat. That's possibly the key area for me in the first two games that we lost," he added.
Stating that small mistakes can alter the outcome of the games, the skipper said: "We played good cricket leading up to the World Cup. We were very consistent in the subcontinent. We beat all teams that have travelled here. World Cup is a do-or-die tournament. We made one or two mistakes and they punished us.
"Tonight was a good example, Sri Lanka made one or two mistakes while batting and we capitalised on that. We have only to blame ourselves. The sad thing now is that it's four years for the next World Cup," he rued.
Sri Lanka posted 120 that South Africa achieved in 17.4 overs but Du Plessis termed the low-scoring chase as "tricky".
"The bowlers bowled really well and we chased down a small total which is never easy on these wickets. It's always tricky. It was really important for us to have a good partnership to start with because the only way the team will beat you is if it get wickets upfront. So, after the run out it was nice that we could make it a bit stable. Yeah it's bittersweet. We're going back out of the World Cup.
"We came here with a great squad, wanting to win the World Cup. We didn't play our best cricket. That's not how we wanted to go. We have only ourselves to blame. We were planning to do much better. But we're a proud team." Du Plessis said promoting big-hitting AB de Villiers up the batting order was a step in right direction.
"He's played in different positions and we have tried him in different roles. I think AB actually said that he needs to improve his T20 stats. He is a world class player and I think that's his journey now. He wants to try and improve, and hopefully we are going to see more of AB going into the future because a quality player like him always comes out at the top.
"Tonight was a step in the right direction. To finish the game, not out, that's the best way you can win games. To compare with Virat Kohli last night, he does it for living and regularly. That's what we all want to be. We want to be more consistent, winning games for your country. Not just the odd 30 or 20. He's a proud performer and hopefully he will play lot more for South Africa," he said.
When Du Plessis was dismissed last night, the large number of fans started chanting 'AB' 'AB'. Asked if such a phenomenon was distracting since it also happens when he is still at the crease, Du Plessis said he is now "used to it".
"When I am batting in India and hear AB AB and I am just imagining in my head that they are chanting my name. It's actually quite strange to deal with it. I remember in an ODI series that we played here, I actually waned to get out on purpose just because you feel like the crowd wants him. I have learnt now India loves him. He has actually done amazing things in India. He is a box office cricketer. You have to put your ego aside when you go in front of them."
Du Plessis also said paceman Dale Steyn's poor show was understandable since he is making a comeback after an injury.
Meanwhile, Sri Lanka spinner Jeffrey Vandersay refused to blame the batsmen for their poor show.
"As a bowler, my thinking is whatever the batsmen put on the board, we should defend it. And that's a team game. I won't put the blame on them. The team has to take the responsibility," he said.
"We always believe in ourselves. We always have the potential and the talent to win matches. But certain areas of the game didn't quite go our way. We lost four wickets for 15 runs and then the captain Angelo Mathews played a brilliant innings (against England). We lost by 10 runs, which shows the character and potential of the Sri Lankan fight."
Vandersay said his team is going through a tough time.
"It was tough for the team and we were quite disappointed in the dressing room. Things would have turned much better if we put good total, bowl better and fielded better. Personal point of view, I am happy yet disappointed that ultimate result was a loss," he said.