World T20 preview: No room for error in game of freakish spells

World T20 preview: No room for error in game of freakish spells

South Africa will begin their World T20 campaign against England on Friday. While they can head into that clash and indeed the tournament full of confidence, they might need to draw straws to figure out their best XI. By ANTOINETTE MULLER.

No matter how much we’d like to try to convince ourselves otherwise, there is no exact science to analysing T20 cricket. While skilful players who can adapt to various disciplines and perform consistently do make a big impact, it takes just one freakish innings from one freakish player to turn a match completely on its head.

The good news for South Africa is that they have an abundance of all of the above and a good record in the subcontinent to boot. Last year, South Africa beat India 0-2 in a three match T20 series (the last match was cancelled), the first time they had played a T20 series in the country.

The Proteas managed to sneak a four-run victory over hosts India in their first warm-up fixture over the weekend with Chris Morris pulling off yet another heist, this time with the ball in hand. With India needing 14 runs off the final over, captain Faf du Plessis opted to give the ball to Morris. This was a brave decision considering that the lanky speedster had produced some utterly wasteful spells at times during the South African summer. But perhaps Du Plessis wanted Morris to purge himself of the self-doubt and what better way than to dive into the deep end.

Morris delivered, conceding just nine runs, including a wide and a boundary, not a bad return considering he was bowling to MS Dhoni and Yuvraj Singh, two of the most destructive batsmen in world cricket.

While it is good news for the captain that this particular freakish player has exorcised some of his bowling demons, it’s bad news for the selectors who have still not figured out who the best XI is.

Hashim Amla, Quinton de Kock and AB de Villiers have been playing musical chairs with scoring runs and the opening berth for the entire summer and it seems increasingly likely that the selectors’ hand may be forced into playing all three.

With JP Duminy notching up an impressive 67 off just 44 balls in the warm-up against India, South Africa might have to give Rilee Rossouw the boot to make their configuration of playing Amla, De Kock and De Villiers work.

Selectors also have to ponder how to balance the bowling line-up with Dale Steyn, Kyle Abbott, Kagiso Rabada, David Wiese and Morris all vying for a spot while Imran Tahir is, perhaps, the only player whose record means he picks himself.

South Africa find themselves in the easier of the two groups and are expected to progress easily to the semi-finals. But there is no room for error. DM

South Africa’s opponents, by date of match and results against them

England, 18 March

Played 11, won seven, lost three

South Africa are fortunate with starting their campaign against England, a team they recently beat. It might be in a different setting, in a different context, but at least South Africa will know what to expect. Three of their T20 meetings have come in World T20s and South Africa have lost just one of those, back in 2010 when England won the tournament.

Afghanistan, 20 March

The two teams have met once before, back in 2010 in Bridgetown during the World T20. South Africa won by 59 runs back then, but that was way back when Afghanistan had just started their meteoric rise in world cricket. The Proteas are expected to win this one, but don’t get too much of a fright if Afghanistan push them close or even pull a Japan.

West Indies, 25 March

Played nine, won six, lost three

South Africa have played the West Indies twice in World T20s and won both those fixtures. The bad news for South Africa is that they have lost two out of their last three T20s against the West Indies and those losses came on South African soil when the two sides met last year. If there is one saving grace for West Indies cricket it’s the T20 format, but the lead-up to the contest has been marred by pay disputes and players pulling out of the squad. The timing of the fixture means that South Africa are unlikely to risk any player rotation as they will want to secure the top spot in their group and avoid a possible clash with India in the semi-finals.

Sri Lanka, 28 March

Played five, won three, lost two

The two teams have met twice in World T20s with South Africa winning once (in 2012) and Sri Lanka beating them in group stages in the previous edition of the tournament. This Sri Lankan side is a shadow of its former self, though, with Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene out of the picture. The next generation of players are struggling through a transitional phase and with just three wins in 13 matches over the last year, they could very well end up being the tournament’s whipping boys.

Photo: Faf du Plessis throws at the stumps to dismiss Kane Williamson during the final one-day cricket international against South Africa, in Auckland, March 3, 2012. REUTERS/Nigel Marple.


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