South Africa’s story in the World Cup is cricket’s ultimate Shakespearan tragedy. In 1992, in 1999, in 2003 and in 2007, they had every reason why they shouldn’t have been knocked out when they were, and yet they found themselves in situations and put themselves in one that would keep them away from cricket’s ultimate trophy. This would be the first time since 1996 that they would be coming to a World Cup without being one of the favourites for the title, and also possibly the last time a fine generation of cricketers – Dale Steyn, Faf du Plessis, Imran Tahir, Hashim Amla and JP Duminy – would represent them at the World Cup.
So what’s their gameplan?
They have an experienced opening duo, an in-form middle order, some fine finishers and a battery of all-rounders, but it is their bowling attack that would have to lead the charge for them. In Dale Steyn, Kagiso Rabada and Lungisani Ngidi, they have arguably the best pace attack, to go with unarguably the best spinner in limited overs cricket currently – Imran Tahir. Andile Phehlukwayo may not threaten the opposition with his pace, but his canny variations have made him an effective and a reliable 10-over option. In a tournament where 300-plus scores are expected to be chased down, the bowling could well be the difference for South Africa, and skipper du Plessis realises that.
Player should watch out for
The 40-year old leggie maybe playing his last tournament but he is coming into the World Cup having finished as the highest wicket-taker in the recently-concluded Indian Premier League. While the conditions will be different in England, his variations and wicket-taking ability could make him highly effective in the middle overs. That he is also hard to score off, makes him an invaluable asset.
What are their chances?
They may not be the fittest or the most in-form unit going into the World Cup, but in all departments, they have top-quality personnel. If they all fire, they can be as good as any side in the competition.
Hashim Amla, Quinton de Kock (wk), Aiden Markram, Faf du Plessis (c), Rassie van der Dussen, JP Duminy, David Miller, Andile Phehlukwayo, Dwaine Pretorius, Chris Morris, Dale Steyn, Kagiso Rabada, Lungisani Ngidi, Imran Tambe, Tabraiz Shamsi
England vs South Africa, Kennington Oval, London (D)
South Africa vs Bangladesh, Kennington Oval, London (D)
South Africa vs India, The Rose Bowl, Southampton (D)
South Africa vs West Indies, The Rose Bowl, Southampton (D)
South Africa vs Afghanistan, Sophia Gardens, Cardiff (D/N)
New Zealand vs South Africa, Edgbaston, Birmingham (D)
Pakistan vs South Africa, Lord’s, London (D)
Sri Lanka vs South Africa, Riverside Ground, Chester-le-Street (D)
Australia vs South Africa, Old Trafford, Manchester (D/N)