JOHANNESBURG – The Proteas headed to London yesterday, with all the personnel given a day off in the English capital before their focus - finally - turns to the start of the World Cup on Thursday.
The warm-up games served their purpose, although as Hashim Amla mentioned after Sunday’s rained-out encounter in Bristol against the West Indies, the players could have done with another full game in their legs ahead of the tournament opener against England, but c’est la vie.
England and their awesome power, form and confidence await a Proteas team who head into this year’s competition unsure about themselves in categories ranging from form to fitness.
Amla for one was glad for a lot of time in the middle in both warm-up games. On Sunday he and Quinton de Kock batted together for 57 minutes. Amla was not out on 51 when rain ended proceedings, backing up his 65 against the Sri Lankans two days earlier, and indicating that despite many concerns about his form and mental state, he was in fine fettle - albeit, in a warm-up match.
Before the squad’s departure captain Faf du Plessis had said the pair of pre-tournament matches would be crucial for Amla, and while the great right hander didn’t go “bang bang and score two hundreds,” as Du Plessis had mentioned, a total of 163 minutes at the crease and 107 balls faced should be enough to see him accompany De Kock to the middle of The Oval to open the batting for South Africa on Thursday.
“Scoring runs is important,” Amla said in Bristol. “I had two weeks with (Dale Benkenstein) just before our camp and got to bat in the nets how a 50-overs cricketer would bat and it was quite important.”
The last few months have been difficult for Amla, more so off the field than on it, where he had to assist his father who was gravely ill. As a result of his attention being focussed there, Amla explained that, while he did hear some of the speculation around whether he should go to the World Cup, he paid it little attention.
“I had a few more important things at the time that occupied my mind. But I’m just happy to be back on the park and making some runs. Whether you make the playing XI or not is not up to me. I do what I can do and hopefully what happens after that is for the best of the team,” Amla said.
The Proteas will train at The Oval today with coach Ottis Gibson set to provide an update on the fitness of Dale Steyn, who played no part with the ball in the two warm-up games as he continues to increase his workload after a shoulder injury curtailed his IPL participation last month.@shockerhess