Photo Credit: [Anthony Au-Yeung]/Getty Images

South Africa embark on a potentially historic tour to a country that has provided many hurdles to its national team over the past few months. To see the South African team lifting the Champions Trophy on 18th June almost exactly a year after the Brexit referendum which triggered the seemingly never-ending number of kolpak deals would be a magnificent sight.

Indeed, those on the podium would not be thinking of such events and their countrymen would no doubt take time out of their busy county schedule to send kind messages. Perhaps Rilee Rossouw would not be so quick to offer his congratulations, who has had the only ‘bad blood’ to be seen in the public eye when he came up against Dean Elgar a couple of weeks ago whilst playing against Somerset. Rossouw could have found himself in South Africa’s starting line-up had he not signed a three-year deal with Hampshire – something that Dean Elgar was quick to remind him of. Rossouw responded by hitting 155 to win the game for his team.

Still, South Africa’s more senior players have strongly insisted that they have what it takes to win the Champions Trophy regardless of any setbacks. Here is a look at their chances of winning a first ICC tournament since 1998:

Strengths

South Africa are the form team leading into the Champions Trophy. They have won 13 out of their last 15 ODI’s, including two 5-0 whitewashes against Sri Lanka and Australia.

The Proteas boast one of the most explosive batting line-ups in world cricket. Quinton De Kock is arguably the best opening batsman in the ODI format behind Australia’s David Warner. The evergreen Hashim Amla provides the youngster with superb support and is often the backbone of the innings. Faf Du Plessis has more ODI runs in 2017 than any other player in the world (589 at an average of 73.62). More so, David Miller and Andile Phehlukwayo often produce fireworks at the back end of an innings.

AB De Villiers has had a difficult few months regarding his international future, followed by a lean IPL by his usual standards. Still, the star batsman is not concerned by his current form. ‘’I always felt in good form. I’m not too worried about it honestly, I’m really excited to move forward, I’m hitting the ball as well as ever so I think there are some big scores to come’’ De Villiers told the Hindustantimes.

 

50-over cricket has provided a welcome return for the skipper, however, scoring 433 runs at 72.16 this year. It’s a big cliché that the best players produce on the biggest stage, but it would be fair to say that most people would apply it to AB De Villiers.

The Proteas will need an equally explosive bowling line-up if they are to win the tournament. Just ask De Villiers, who lined up with Chris Gayle and Virat Kohli in the recent IPL and finished rock bottom.

Imran Tahir has been an instrumental part of South Africa’s bowling attack in the past couple of years – taking 43 wickets since the start of 2016. The 38-year-old will need to be at the top of his game, given the other three teams in Group B are sub-continental, and therefore traditionally good at playing spin.

Weaknesses

South Africa’s ageing team is likely to split the optimists and the pessimists more than ever. More than half of the squad are the wrong side of thirty; the average age of 29 is helped largely by having two 21-year-olds. ‘An ageing side’ or ‘vastly experienced’ is a debate for another day but if South Africa are unsuccessful in this tournament it will not be down to tired minds and bad backs.

South Africa’s experience does not lie in their bowling attack, Imran Tahir and Morne Morkel aside. Phehlukwayo, Kagiso Rabada, Chris Morris, Keshav Maharaj, Dwaine Pretorius, and Wayne Parnell have 141 caps between them. De Villiers, Du Plessis, and Hashim Amla share 450 caps.

AB De Villiers may opt to bowl first whenever he can due to the lack of a specialist death bowler which so often decides matches.

Key Player

South Africa’s recent results, more so in the Test arena, have proved that they are not completely reliant on AB De Villiers. Although he has the ability to decimate any bowling line-up on his day, South Africa have enough batting between them to do the same. For this reason, Imran Tahir will almost certainly be a key player. His ability to take wickets in the middle overs and suffocate any partnership is crucial to the Proteas winning the tournament. Conditions won’t be ‘English like’ as the pitches are controlled by the ICC so their pacemen will not be as threatening as they would hope to be in England.

 

Likely XI

  1. Quinton De Kock
  2. Hashim Amla
  3. Faf du Plessis
  4. JP Duminy
  5. AB de Villiers (c)
  6. David Miller
  7. Dwaine Pretorius
  8. Chris Morris
  9. Andile Phehlukwayo
  10. Kagiso Rabada
  11. Imran Tahir

South Africa’s batting line-up pretty much picks itself with Farhaan Behardien providing cover for any injuries. The selectors may be tempted to bring in Morne Morkel at some point to add some much-needed experience or Wayne Parnell to provide a left-arm option. Keshav Maharaj completes the squad as the second spinner.

Can South Africa Win It?

Yes. South Africa’s biggest weapon is their desire to win. Only England have prepared as extensively for the tournament. For ODI heavyweights like India and Australia, it is just another tournament. India threatened to boycott the tournament due to financial rife with the ICC. Likewise, Australia’s players are sure to be distracted given the ongoing financial battle with Cricket Australia. The Proteas should have no problem qualifying for the knockout stages, with Sri Lanka and Pakistan likely to prove weaker opposition.

A semi-final against Australia at Edgbaston, 18 years after that infamous last-gasp World Cup defeat, would be a mouth-watering affair.

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