at the Union Buildings in Pretoria
Birmingham - South Africa retain the majority of a bowling unit which is the envy of the rest of the world heading to the ICC World T20 championships in Sri Lanka.
An oft used phrase among professional sportsmen and teams is “having our bases covered” and in the case of the South African attack, that is definitely the case.
Which is why, of the teams from outside the subcontinent they are considered the most likely to annex the global T20 crown.
Naturally everyone reckons the pitches will be slow and will assist spin, however the venue for South Africa’s group matches, the Mahindra Rajapaksa International Stadium in the southern city of Hambantota, has given some help to the fast bowlers in the couple of T20 Internationals held there recently between the home nation and Pakistan.
Were that trend to continue during the ICC World T20, then expect the likes of Dale Steyn, Morné Morkel, Lonwabo Tsotsobe and Wayne Parnell, all to be a threat. However such is the variety at AB de Villiers’s disposal that whatever the conditions, South Africa should cope.
The Durham match on Saturday was played on a surface that De Villiers and his opposite number Stuart Broad likened pitches they anticipated encountering in Sri Lanka; slow and helpful to the spinners. South Africa had the players to cope and that is without De Villiers even using all of his spinning options. Johan Botha and Robin Peterson, are a pair of experienced spinners; Peterson enjoys attacking, while Botha is crafty, able to get prodigious spin on his off-break but whose main variation is his pace.
They don’t mind bowling during the power play either, or with the new ball further widening the strategies De Villiers can utilise. Steyn and Morkel provide the firepower and of the two left-arm fast bowlers, it is Parnell who looked more threatening during the ODIs than his good pal Tsotsobe.
Then there’s Jacques Kallis and Albie Morkel, both are capable of bowling with the new ball, and importantly both have vast knowledge of subcontinent conditions from their experience of playing in the IPL. There are further spin options with JP Duminy and if he can find some form with the bat Faf du Plessis, and at any one time De Villiers could have as many as nine bowlers from which to choose.
The batting doesn’t look as secure. Kallis, Hashim Amla, De Villiers and JP Duminy are all in excellent form, but Albie Morkel and Richard Levi would have enjoyed a score to their names at some point. Levi in particular needs runs to lift his self-confidence before the opener against Zimbabwe on September 20.
However, as the South African team depart for Sri Lanka tomorrow morning, they all know the questions hanging over them doesn’t concern form, experience or ability, it’s about what goes on in their minds in tight situations, especially in knockout matches.
De Villiers, going to his first major international competition as captain, is aware he’ll face plenty of questions about South Africa’s mental fragility and their failures at previous ICC tournaments, but for all the answers he may have verbally, the only way South Africa can subdue the doubters is to overcome their shortcomings on the field.
This side has grown a great deal in the past few weeks, attaining the top status in Tests, then first leading and then having to come from behind to tie the one-day series.
The next few weeks provide another chance to get the ICC monkey off their backs; the form’s there, so is the personnel. In a few weeks, they’ll have to show the mental strength.