Gone are the days where Afghanistan were a pushover or underdogs, as they have demonstrated in the ongoing Cricket World Cup.
In only their second World Cup campaign, they have beaten defending champions England, former world champions Pakistan and Sri Lanka, the Netherlands and battled mightily against Australia on Tuesday night.
From their world-class spinners Rashid Khan and Mohammad Nabi to budding seamers Naveen-UlHaq and Azmatullah Omarzai, the Afghans have made a statement in this tournament. South Africa take on Afghanistan in Ahmedabad on Friday, and with the Proteas having qualified for the semi-finals, this fixture only carries weight in preparation for the semi-final for the South Africans.
The million-dollar question is how can South Africa use this fixture to better themselves for the knockout stages of the World Cup?
POLISH THE SKILLS
It’s easy to look at South Africa’s two losses (to the Netherlands and India) and forget everything else that this team has done right in this World Cup.
In all honesty, Temba Bavuma and his men have had a fantastic World Cup and have achieved what a lot of critics (and some local fans) could not foresee them successfully pulling off in India.
Friday’s match is a massive opportunity to remind themselves as a team, and the rest of the world, that their performances were not a fluke but they are a quality side.
And it is crucial for these guys and the rest of the team to use Friday’s match to gain momentum heading into the final week of the World Cup.
South Africa have had problems batting second and their two losses in this World Cup have largely been due to the team’s inability to chase.
To be fair, the conditions in India have favoured teams batting first. The unforgiving heat during the first half of the match weighs heavily on the fielding team that still has to put in a shift with the bat under lights.
Also, it appears that the bowling conditions under lights on the subcontinent are a totally different cup of tea to bowling in the baking sun during the day – there is more swing and nip through the air than there is during the day, and the dew factor comes into play.
This is a factor that South Africa could experiment with on Friday – opt to bowl first and further test themselves and their strategies batting second.
KAGISO RABADA ROLE CHANGE
Building up to the World Cup, Rabada was not at his best in terms of accuracy and rhythm. However, the fast bowler has turned things around in this World Cup and looks at his best.
Looking at his performance against India – where he dismissed Rohit Sharma and returned figures of 1/48 in 10 overs, while also bearing in mind that Lungi Ngidi left the field with a hamstring niggle – it might not be a bad idea to hand KG the new ball again.
With or without Ngidi, the thought of seeing Rabada with the new ball at this stage of the tournament is enticing and reassuring at the same time.
Zooming in on India’s success as a bowling unit in this World Cup, they have been on the money from ball one and South Africa could do with the leader of the attack having a crack with the new ball on Friday.