Series victory in Sri Lanka demonstrates Proteas’ hunger for success at T20 World Cup
South Africa’s senior men’s cricket team sealed a comfortable T20I series victory over Sri Lanka on the subcontinent. Though they have been written off heading into the World Cup, the Proteas are confident they can have a memorable tournament.
The Proteas head into next month’s T20 World Cup outside of the circle of favourites. That honour has been bestowed on India and England.
Still, after sealing a third consecutive T20I series victory, the Proteas are confident of doing well in the tournament.
The South Africans walloped Sri Lanka by nine wickets to take an unassailable 2-0 lead in the three-match series.
The convincing win came courtesy of some brilliant web-slinging from the Proteas’ spinners, who have shone throughout the tour of Sri Lanka – including when the visitors were beaten in the One Day International series.
Spinners Tabraiz Shamsi, Keshav Maharaj, Bjorn Fortuin and part-timer Aiden Markram shared nine wickets between them as they caught the Sri Lankans in an inescapable web of spin, bundling them out for a lowly 103.
The batters did their job too to help South Africa seal a comprehensive win, with Quinton de Kock starring as he recorded an unbeaten half-century, and Reeza Hendricks plus Markram supporting him along the way.
This latest victory follows success over the defending T20I world champions, West Indies, as well as a crushing 3-0 victory over minnows Ireland – all away from home.
We are not rubbish
Despite their run of success in the shortest format of international cricket, one of the stars of the Proteas hypnotic spin-bowling unit, Shamsi, feels the side is not always afforded the respect it deserves.
“I don’t think this team is rubbish. I think we are quite good. I know people speak about great teams of the past but this team is on par with them,” said Shamsi.
“We might not have as many household names, and I have mentioned previously that it is because we have not played that much international cricket, but it does not mean that the players are not good just because they are not well known.”
Recurring issues in Cricket South Africa’s (CSA’s) boardroom, as well as the recent racial controversy surrounding coach Mark Boucher, have done little to boost the public’s appreciation of this generation of SA cricketers.
Nonetheless, the players have knuckled down and produced the required performances in this particular format. This series victory was their sixth on the trot in T20Is.
With conditions in the United Arab Emirates and Oman set to favour spin due to the heat and worn pitches, the depth in South Africa’s spin department is something that will undoubtedly stand them in good stead.
The contributions of Markram, who can be belligerent with the willow and highly effective with ball in hand, mean the Proteas will have a variety of spin options to call on when the World Cup kicks off on 17 October.
“We have three quality [specialist] spinners in the squad, plus Aiden. So, I think that is really nice. It just gives us options, whereas maybe previously we just had eight overs of spin,” said Shamsi, who is the No 1 ranked T20 bowler in the world.
They also have George Linde to call upon should the need arise. The spinning all-rounder was named as one of the travelling reserves for the tournament.
His exclusion from the main squad, though unfortunate given his form and consistency in recent months, is further proof of South Africa’s spin strength.
“George has bowled well and is unlucky, but he is one of the all-rounders and we have gone with the seam bowling all-rounders,” said the CSA convenor of selectors, Victor Mpitsang, when the T20I World Cup was announced.
The Proteas face Sri Lanka in the final T20I of the series on Tuesday afternoon and will be eyeing a clean sweep of victories before they shift their focus to preparations for the World Cup. DM