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Thursday, May 30, 2024

Proteas bowlers have one last chance to impress ahead of Cricket Cup

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The Proteas pace attack will have one final opportunity to find unity, understanding of their defined roles and their killer instinct in a warm-up match against New Zealand today at the Greenfield Stadium in Thiruvananthapuram.

Sri Lanka await in the 50-over Cup beyond that when they start the tournament on Saturday against Sri Lanka and the Proteas have six days left to tighten up their game plans in the hopes of bringing the trophy home.

On the batting front, the Proteas have looked sound throughout the year with captain Temba Bavuma, Heinrich Klaasen and Aiden Markram scoring big hundreds.

Quinton de Kock at the top of the order has looked good, particularly in the Australia series.

David Miller also had a fantastic start to the summer with a couple of half-centuries in the middle order in the Australia series, meaning the team’s batting unit is on song heading to the Cup.

Moreover, Bavuma’s absence in today’s warm-up match will give back-up batter Reeza Hendricks time out in the middle, giving South Africa a lot more comfort knowing that Hendricks will be ready to step up when called upon at some point in the tournament.

The crucial part of SA’s plans is the form of the bowling attack, which was good towards the end of the Australia series but concerning at the Mangaung Oval where the team lost two matches on the bounce.

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Yes, SA were able to bowl Australia out in seam-friendly conditions in Potchefstroom, Centurion and Johannesburg last month, but they also failed to be clinical with the ball in India-like conditions in Bloemfontein, which was concerning.

As good as it is that they bowled Australia out in under 35 overs in the three matches that they won, it would be ideal for the bowling unit to have a full 50 overs today to put their plans to the test ahead of the Cup.

White-ball coach Rob Walter, following last week’s rained out warm-up match against Afghanistan, mentioned the team’s desperation to have a full 50 overs in the field before the start of the Cup.

“We desperately wanted to get a full 50 overs out there,” said Walter. “The last three games (against Australia), from a bowling point of view, only went to 35 overs.”

In Indian conditions, SA’s pace-dominated bowling unit will have to work a lot harder to get positive results for the team purely because of the flatness of the Indian wickets.

Every bit of assistance that there will be, be it overhead conditions or some grass on the wicket, Kagiso Rabada and the entire attack, will have to make full use of.

The use of the new-ball will also be very important in India, thus Rabada, Lungi Ngidi or Marco Jansen, as SA’s new-ball bowlers, will have to hit the ground running from ball one.

Furthermore, the Proteas’ spinners Tabraiz Shamsi and Keshav Maharaj will undoubtedly have a lot more assistance from the wickets than they did in SA. If the pair bowls as good as they did during the Australia series, the Proteas will have a chance at the Cup.

All-rounder Andile Phehlukwayo stands a chance of playing today as SA will need his skills in the lower order throughout the tournament. But all the preparation starts with the New Zealand warm-up match today at 10.30am.

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