Faced with the daunting prospect of having to win their final five games to put their name in the hat for semi-final progression, the Proteas still don’t have a fully-fit 15-man squad to choose from.
Fast bowler Lungi Ngidi has not yet recovered from the hamstring strain sustained against Bangladesh in the Proteas’ second World Cup match at The Oval almost a fortnight ago.
Ngidi was expected only to miss the following game against India in Southampton, but was not ready for the abandoned tie against the West Indies too three days later.
Now it seems the 23-year-old paceman will remain in the shed for the all-important clash with Afghanistan here at Sophia Gardens today too.
“He is still doing some work, today and possibly even tomorrow,” Proteas captain Faf Du Plessis confirmed.
“It’s a tricky one with hamstring strains, particularly with fast bowlers, to know when they are ready. We’ll make a decision on that tomorrow.
“We’re in a position now where we have to win five games out of five, so you want to have your best guys available for selection.
“If he is not 100% or even 90% ready for the game and there is a bit of rain around ... is it worth the risk? Those are the conversations that we have been having, so it’s probably the right call if he is not ready to give him a little bit of time and see if he can play the next four games, which are obviously going to be big when we play against the bigger nations.”
Fortunately for South Africa, the arrival of Highveld Lions seamer Beuran Hendricks has added some much-needed zip to the attack. Hendricks was in the line-up against the Windies, but did not get an opportunity to bowl as the match was abandoned 7.3 overs into the Proteas innings.
He has, though, looked sharp in the nets when the Proteas have had the opportunity to bowl outdoors. Du Plessis has often been on the receiving end of a couple of quick deliveries which smashed into the skipper’s gloves.
“Beuran is bowling nicely in the nets ... he looks like he’s bowling very well,” Du Plessis said.
South Africa have already been caught with their feet in the sand once this tournament already when Bangladesh pulled off a surprise win at The Oval. With there being no further room for error, Du Plessis stressed that they won’t allow Afghanistan to catch them off guard again.
“I think what’s clear in the world of cricket now is that you can’t call teams minors anymore. You can’t call them weaker sides because they have the ability and the players in their dressing room to change a game.
“You need two or three guys in any game to stand up and win you a game. And they’ve got those players. Obviously Rashid Khan is probably the standout for them in the fact that he’s proven in T20 cricket that he’s certainly, probably the best leg spinner in the world in T20 cricket.”
South Africa: Faf du Plessis (capt), Aiden Markram, Quinton de Kock (wk), Hashim Amla, Rassie van der Dussen, David Miller, Chris Morris, Andile Phehlukwayo, JP Duminy, Dwaine Pretorius, Beuran Hendricks, Kagiso Rabada, Lungi Ngidi, Imran Tahir, Tabraiz Shamsi
Afghanistan: Gulbadin Naib (capt), Noor Ali Zadran, Hazratullah Zazai, Rahmat Shah (wk), Asghar Afghan, Hashmatullah Shahidi, Najibullah Zadran, Samiullah Shinwari, Mohammad Nabi, Rashid Khan, Dawlat Zadran, Aftab Alam, Hamid Hassan, Mujeeb ur Rahman, Ikram Ali Khil
Start: 2.30pm (SA time)@ZaahierAdams