Proteas ready to challenge at T20 World Cup

12 March 2014

The Proteas will go in search of their first major ICC title since the 1998 Champions Trophy when the ICC T20 World Cup begins on 16 March in Bangladesh. Faf du Plessis’ team is currently ranked third in the world.

In four previous T20 World Cups, South Africa’s best performance was reaching the semi-finals in England in 2009. However, in the last World Cup in Sri Lanka in 2012, the side performed poorly, losing all three of their group games to Pakistan, Australia and India to exit the event early. No doubt, that would have stung and the team will be out to turn its fortunes around.

South Africa’s first match, against Sri Lanka in Chittagong, will be the 14th of the tournament and takes place on 22 March; the first week of the event will see second-tier nations in action, competing for two places in the Super 10 phase of the tournament.

‘Sub-continental conditions’

“We have two warm-up matches, one against Pakistan and the other against Bangladesh A,” Du Plessis told Cricket South Africa in Durban on Tuesday. “That’s great for us because it will be played in sub-continental conditions.”

In 2013, the Proteas defeated Sri Lanka, currently ranked number one, and Pakistan, currently ranked number four, away from home, which will give them confidence that they can produce the goods in Asian conditions.

‘Biggest key’

“For me the biggest key for us as a team is our reflection points,” Du Plessis said. “We beat Sri Lanka after getting hammered in the ODIs. Mentally we were nowhere but managed to pick ourselves up to win the series 2-1. We went to Dubai and beat Pakistan 2-0, which is why I feel that we are ready for the World Cup.”

AB de Villiers

Besides the role Du Plessis has to play as captain and one of the team’s leading batsmen, a lot will rest on the shoulders of AB de Villiers, who is generally regarded as the best batsman in the world at present.

He is number one in the test rankings, number two in the one-day international rankings, but only 38th in the T20 rankings. That last ranking means little, however. De Villiers has all the shots to take any game by the scruff of the neck and make it his own. He is a scary challenge for any bowler.

David Miller

Another batsman who is a nasty proposition for opposition bowlers is the left-handed David Miller, whose clean, power-hitting is among the most devastating in the game. He proved his destructive abilities with a stunning 101 not out off of just 38 balls for the Kings XI Punjab against the Royal Challengers Bangalore in last season’s Indian Premier League.

More recently, he struck an unbeaten 93 off just 37 deliveries for the Sunfoil Dolphins in the semi-finals of the Ram Slam T20 Challenge. The Dolphins went on to win the competition, with Miller topping the run scoring charts with 383 at an average of 47.87 and an astonishing strike rate of 153.20.

There have been some calls for coach Russell Domingo to bat De Villiers at number three and Miller at number four to get the most out of their match-winning abilities.

Quinton de Kock

Quinton de Kock scored only four runs less than Miller in the Ram Slam T20 Challenge at 42.11 and a strike rate of 132.98. While he lacks experience, he showed, with three consecutive centuries against India in one-day internationals, that he is capable of taking apart any international attack.

While a player like Miller is recognised for his ability to turn a match on its head with his clean hitting, one would not necessarily think of Hashim Amla in those terms, but he was almost as effective in the recently concluded Ram Slam T20 Challenge, making 317 runs at 45.28 and a strike rate of 143.43, not far off of Miller’s outstanding mark.

Bowling

On the bowling front, Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel will lead the pace attack. Neither has anything to prove. They will be a tough test for any batting line-up and will be supported by Lonwabo Tsotsobe, who has established himself as an effective bowler in the T20 format.

JP Duminy will provide an all-round contribution, including as an off-spinner, while leg spinner Imran Tahir, according to captain Du Plessis, is as important to the South African attack as Dale Steyn.

‘He’s a game-changer’

“He does really well in those conditions and we, as a team, back him completely,” Du Plessis told the South African Press Association (Sapa) on Tuesday. “I understand he’s a game-changer and I also understand what comes with that. Imran is never a guy that needs to bowl and keep the run rate down for you.

“He’s a wicket-taker and you need to get the best out of him, bowl him in situations where we are looking to get wickets.”

Albie Morkel and Wayne Parnell will provide experience and all-round ability, Farhaan Berhaiden adds batting depth, Aaron Phangiso is an off-spin specialist, and newcomer Beuran Hendricks provides an exciting left-arm pace option.

Group 1

South Africa is in Group 1 of the Super 10’s, together with Sri Lanka, England, New Zealand and the winner of Group B, which features Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Hong Kong and Nepal.

The West Indies are the defending champions.