LONDON – With the final preparations being done yesterday before the World Cup gets underway here at The Oval, the drizzle came down almost on cue.
The ground staff ran frantically for the covers. The on-field painters rushed off with their brushes. And the players brought an early close to their training session.
Fortunately, the forecast for today looks much more promising. It’s meant to be 23°C - a glorious day to get a World Cup started. Proteas captain Faf du Plessis and his team certainly can’t wait.
“For me, personally really, really excited to see the young guys, how well they are going to step up in this tournament. They are just excited to get going and get it started, and I think they will make a huge impact in this tournament. (Kagiso) Rabada and (Lungi) Ngidi have been really, really good over the last 12 months for us,” Du Plessis said.
The cameras will certainly be zoned in on Rabada from the outset. The 24-year-old is the box-office ticket within the Proteas team.
The masses are calling out for a poster-boy and Rabada it is. What will Du Plessis say to his ace fast bowler when he stands on top of his mark ready to bowl the first ball in his World Cup career?
“KG, to be a talent like he is, he doesn’t need any guidance from me. I can try and speak to him a little bit from a tactical point of view but I certainly am not trying to tell him how to bowl. He knows much more than I do,” Du Plessis chirped.
“It’s just about letting him free. He’s a world-class athlete and what people like him do best, is they want a stage to perform, and this World Cup will be a stage for KG to once again show the world what kind of bowler he is.”
A new-look team against a side that has undergone a radical, remarkable transformation: England and South Africa clash in just a few hours' time in the #CWC19 opener! 😍 #WeAreEngland #ProteaFire pic.twitter.com/YF9GNIhu9q— Cricket World Cup (@cricketworldcup) May 30, 2019
Rabada’s role will be heightened due to the absence of the injured Dale Steyn. England captain Eoin Morgan is certainly wary of a Steyn-less Proteas attack.
“They have coped without Dale Steyn in previous series for about a year and a half, I think, and they did a good job of that. The last time they played us at home, Dale Steyn wasn’t here. They have cover, and probably definitely not as reputable a name as Dale Steyn, but they certainly have cover. It’s a strong attack,” Morgan said.
The Proteas have not yet decided who will join Rabada, Ngidi, Imran Tahir and Andile Phehlukwayo. England, meanwhile, have settled on their XI.
All the pressure will be on the hosts today to get their World Cup campaign up and running on a positive note. It will not only be a boost to Morgan and his team, but also to the tournament as a whole.
Competitions such as these generally do well when the host nation fares well. It stirs up waves of emotion and some sort of national pride. Just ask the Springboks of 24 years ago.
But just like the drizzle cooled down everything yesterday, Du Plessis and his Proteas team would like nothing more than to be the ultimate party crashers.
Likely team for today's clash:
South Africa: Hashim Amla, Quinton de Kock, Faf du Plessis (capt), Rassie van der Dussen, David Miller, JP Duminy, Andile Phehlukwayo, Dwaine Pretorius/Chris Morris, Kagiso Rabada, Imran Tahir, Lungi Ngidi.
England: Jason Roy, Jonny Bairstow, Joe Root, Eoin Morgan (capt), Jos Buttler, Ben Stokes, Moeen Ali, Chris Woakes, Adil Rashid, Liam Plunkett, Jofra Archer.
Start: 11:30 (SA time)@ZaahierAdams