South Africa’s next round of matches in the International Cricket Council World T20 begins on Monday. While most of their preparation has been marred by rain, skipper AB de Villiers is only looking at the bright side. By ANT SIMS.
South Africa will take next step towards claiming an ICC world cricket crown on Friday, when they take on Pakistan in Colombo in the first of three Super Eight matches. Their preparation has been irksome leading up to the big match, but captain AB de Villiers insists some of the shorter games which the Proteas have had in the last few weeks have actually offered more value to the team.
South Africa will play all their Super Eights matches in Colombo, where rain has marred much of the tournament. Thunderstorms and scattered showers are once again predicted — but de Villiers feels the weather has helped his side prepare better.
“You can get a reduced over game at any time,” he said after his side beat Sri Lanka in a match reduced by rain on Saturday. “It could happen in the final. We’re ready for that now. It’s still the same game between bat and ball, you’ve just got to think on your feet and be brave. We had an 11-over game and a nine-over game in England and we said there and then that they might be important practise because there is always rain in Sri Lanka at this time of year.”
He acknowledged that “It’s not easy to stay focused with all the rain around and the feeling that it’s going to be called off, but we had a chat and reminded each other of the lessons we had learned from those games. It doesn’t even take a whole over to win or lose the game – you can do it in three or four balls! So it was very satisfying that the guys were on the button from ball one.”
Duckworth-Lewis is something which has given South Africa some headaches in the past – most notably in the 2003 World Cup when the Proteas were knocked out when Mark Boucher was sent the wrong instructions. To ensure that they are mentally fresh for the next stage of the competition, though, de Villiers and team took some time off ahead of the busy schedule which will see them play three matches in just five days – after having almost a week-long break.
“It’s something that we’re aware of and it’s something that we spoke about,” he said. “We will a break away from the game over the next few days and get our minds fresh. What’s going to come is going to be intense and it’s going to require a lot of energy and mental strength as well. When we meet again we’ll make sure we get the quality and not quantity out of the training sessions.”
With not having played much cricket together as a unit and with all the adapting they’ve needed to do with the rain-interrupted match, players haven’t had much time to settle into their roles. One man who has made an impact, though, is JP Duminy. The Cape Cobras man has had a good year with the bat-scoring handy runs in T20 matches in New Zealand and England and the left-hander says he is pleased with the way he has played recently.
“I’m happy with where I am,” Duminy said. “The last two or three months have been pretty good. I would have liked some bigger performances but you’re not always going to get the chance to play the longer innings and to stamp your authority on a game, but the time will come. And when it does, I’ll just have to make sure I’m ready to take it.”
The 28-year old is equally full of confidence that South Africa have what it takes to make it all the way to the final.
“I’ve played quite a few games now and I’m part of an experienced team. I’m certainly ready to take on the added responsibility of being a senior player. Things won’t always go my way but, hopefully, experience will hold me in good stead when it matters most,” he said. “We have enough talent in this squad to go all the way but we’ll have to keep thinking on our feet and adapting to conditions and the match situation.” DM
Photo: Sri Lanka’s Tillakaratne Dilshan collides with South Africa’s wicketkeeper AB de Villiers during their Twenty20 World Cup cricket match in Hambantota September 22, 2012. REUTERS/Dinuka Liyanawatte
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