Just 8% of respondents in a Sydney Morning Herald poll that had drawn 65 869 votes by yesterday afternoon plumped for the Proteas to bring home the trophy.
And it could have been worse. AB de Villiers’s team might have been lumped with Bangladesh, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, who each drew 1%.
Or even worse. No one thinks Zimbabwe, West Indies or England are going to win.
Many of those votes would have been cast before Sri Lanka’s ninewicket victory over England in Wellington on Sunday. That could mean the Sri Lankans are underrated or that those who gave England a fat zero are geniuses.
“It’s not a big deal getting to the World Cup, that part of it is easy,” England captain Eoin Morgan said wearily after presiding over his team’s third loss in four matches.
“But everybody here is like a kid at Christmas – they all want to play, they all want to win,” he said.
Damn straight, and the Aussies are top of the poll pile with 34%. They would be, you might say, considering the voters. But a look at the rest of the pecking order tells us there is less knee-jerking going on than South Africans would like to admit: New Zealand are up there with 26% followed by India with 20%.
In that case, Australia, New Zealand, India and South Africa should contest the semifinals. By the same logic, the Aussies and the Kiwis are favourites to end up in the final.
Which is, of course, where many South Africans would part company with this argument.
However, knowing how others see us is always valuable – and in this case they do not think the Proteas are as good as they think they are.
Too many times in the past this team have flattered to deceive. This time, they will have to go all the way before anyone not from South Africa will believe they can. Doing will be believing. The Proteas have not yet proved themselves as a team who deserve to be taken seriously in this tournament.
They had the chance to earn that status against India and they blew it.
Thumping West Indies by a record margin was never going to repair that damage. Neither will victory in all of their remaining group matches.
But do not take a bunch of one-eyed Aussie newspaper readers’ word for it. Money talks louder than anything, and the latest betting makes South Africa the third-most likely side to win the World Cup.
Who are the two teams with shorter odds than South Africa, and therefore the bookies’ picks for the final? Australia and New Zealand. So heads and hearts agree: the co-hosts are on course to clash at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on March 29.
They have, of course, already met in a surreal match in Auckland last Saturday. New Zealand won, but by only one wicket – and that after they had dispatched Australia for 151.
A strange day indeed, although there was sanity amid the madness: sometimes, the International Cricket Council’s best laid plans cannot stop bowlers from prevailing over unfairly advantaged batsmen.