The Champions Trophy is South Africa’s best opportunity to create history

Amritangshu Bandyopadhyay Roar Guru

By Amritangshu Bandyopadhyay, Amritangshu Bandyopadhyay is a Roar Guru

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    This might just as well be South Africa’s year at ICC Champions Trophy in England.

    The squad picked by Cricket South Africa (CSA) is perhaps the best balanced of all the squads selected for this event, and the enrollment of upcoming South African young superstars, most notably Dwaine Pretorius and Andile Phelukwayo, only add up to the depth in their all-rounder department.

    Though AB de Villiers still retains the captaincy ahead of Faf du Plessis, the squad is strong enough to make history in England by winning their first-ever international cricket event since 1998.

    South Africa will enter the tournament as the number-one ODI outfit after comprehensive series wins over Australia and Sri Lanka at home. They also scraped to a 3-2 series victory against a strong New Zealand side in the latter’s backyard.

    Starting with their batting line-up, they possess a formidable top four with Hashim Amla and the ever-vibrant Quinton de Kock at the top. Though de Kock would be coming on the back of an injury lay off that saw him miss the IPL, his incredible run of form for his national side is tough to match.

    On the other hand, Hashim Amla is having a fantastic IPL 2017 for Kings XI Punjab, where he scored his maiden T20 hundred.

    Up next is the ever-reliable Faf du Plessis and his teammate Ab De Villiers. Both of them have extensive experience of playing in England – du Plessis even played for Lancashire on a Kolpak deal in his early years. De Villiers was the leading run-scorer in the New Zealand series as well.

    Though the scrutiny would be surrounding the fifth spot, which would be occupied either by J.P Duminy or Farhaan Behardien, the general set-up of the starting XI looks very much in balance. Duminy would be presumably preferred to David Miller or Farhaan Behardien owing to his handy off-spin bowling.

    The next three positions would hold the key for any team in the tournament, and this is where the new-look South African team has delivered fantastic performances in their last three ODI series victories.

    Dwaine Pretorius, Andile Phelukwayo and Wayne Parnell have not only added a different variety to their fast-bowling line-up but have also contributed match-winning runs, especially in the New Zealand series.

    Even the South African head coach, Russell Domingo, spoke highly of this trio and the fact that they have delivered immediately when being asked to play in the starting eleven.

    After the victory over New Zealand in the third match of the series Domingo said, “It’s been a feature of our side’s performances over the last year that the younger players have all come in and put in performances straight away, which speaks a lot about where the team is at the moment and the culture of the group.”

    Undoubtedly this is the strongest and the best balanced team heading into the Champions Trophy.

    And giving this trio back-up is Delhi DareDevil’s most valuable player this IPL season, Chris Morris, who would be fighting for a spot in the starting XI with Pretorius and Parnell.

    To add to this strong set-up, they would have the express fast-bowling combination of Kagiso Rabada and Morne Morkel. Even in the spin area they have Imran Tahir and the ever-consistent Keshav Maharaj. Though Maharaj has not featured in an international one-day game, his exploits in the Test arena has not gone unnoticed. His excellent performance in the first Australian-South Africa Test series in Perth caught plenty of headlines.

    This South African team has shown absolute passion and ambition in their fight to become number one in the ODI format, decimating a weakened Australian team and Sri Lanka 5-0 at home.

    Whenever they needed someone to produce a match-winning contribution, they found one. Dwaine Pretorius came into the team for the Bullring Pink one dayer and returned with a Man-of-The-Match figure of three for 19 in his seven. Faf Du Plessis scored his best of 185 in the following game.

    In New Zealand De Villiers found an able partner in Andile Phelukwayo as they scrambled to a four-wicket win with a ball to spare.

    In the next game Dwaine Pretorius pulled the team from a precarious position to the jaws of victory with a flashing 50 along with Phelukwayo.

    Wayne Parnell contributed with two scores of 30 in the following game as South Africa took a 2-1 lead in the series. Even David Miller came to the party in the decider to score a match-winning score 45 off 45 deliveries.

    This South African team has shown plenty of mettle in the WAY they bounced back from every defeat and a comprehensive display of sheer dominance in the way they outplayed Australia and Sri Lanka.

    They even have a relatively easy group schedule in the tournament, with opening assignments against Sri Lanka and Pakistan. India, if they participate, would be the toughest encounter for them.

    The semi-final would again be decisive, as that has been their biggest stumbling block in major ICC events. This team, however, has shown they will not wilt under pressure, even while chasing. In New Zealand they produced capable performances to see themselves across the line.

    Vernon Philander, who is out with an injury, might be a bit missed, especially in the seaming conditions in England – Philander is perhaps the biggest exponent of seam bowling in modern-day world cricket.

    Nevertheless, the variety in their bowling arsenal, from academic fast bowlers to medium-pacers who could change their pace and have tricky variations, makes South Africa a very well-equipped team to face any uncertainty in those conditions.

    This ICC Champions Trophy is certainly on the cards for the Proteas to break their jinx of not winning an international event since 1998.

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    The Crowd Says (13)

    • May 5th 2017 @ 8:44am
      sean said | May 5th 2017 @ 8:44am | ! Report

      So same old story then?

    • May 5th 2017 @ 9:08am
      BrainsTrust said | May 5th 2017 @ 9:08am | ! Report

      If they had Kyle Abbot still then you would think they would be favourites.
      For a country where cricket is not very popular SOuth Africa seems to keep producing heaps of cricketing talent.

      • May 5th 2017 @ 6:37pm
        davSA said | May 5th 2017 @ 6:37pm | ! Report

        SA have never worn the favourites tag very well Brains Trust. Kyle Abbott was a big loss to us . He was at the very top of his game when he took a Kolpak route and was a very big factor in our defeat of the Aussies recently.

        Although SA cricket may not have the player numbers of Aussie , England and of course India it can no longer be termed a minority sport here . There is some really top talent still coming through especially in the Fast Bowlers category..

    • May 5th 2017 @ 11:20am
      Ouch said | May 5th 2017 @ 11:20am | ! Report

      SA have yet to prove they have a big game temperament. A full strength Australian side would match these guys I reckon.
      Difficult to get too excited about this tournament. Will be nice too see cricket during the winter though.

      • May 5th 2017 @ 2:57pm
        Joe Bell said | May 5th 2017 @ 2:57pm | ! Report

        I would say we are pretty evenly matched ATM so long as either Pattinson doesn’t play OR defies history and transfers his current imperious four-day form across to One Day form. I would say the main difference between our sides is their batting consistency currently (without Khawaja – whatever combo of Lynn, Maxwell, Finch, Stoinis, Henriques seems quite prone to collapse for mine) and they have the insane advantage of QDK who makes a mockery of Wade. Although in fairness (as a perennial Wade basher) I believe he showed a marked improvement when we played NZ and Pak at home recently

      • Roar Guru

        May 5th 2017 @ 2:59pm
        Amritangshu Bandyopadhyay said | May 5th 2017 @ 2:59pm | ! Report

        They have shown it against a quality New Zealand side in their backyard

    • Columnist

      May 5th 2017 @ 12:55pm
      Ronan O'Connell said | May 5th 2017 @ 12:55pm | ! Report

      SA have the best-balanced ODI lineup in the world and should, on paper, be slight favourites to win the tournament ahead of Australia.

      But there’s no doubt history weighs upon them. I think they’ll make the semis along with Australia, England and India.

      Australia to beat India in one semi, SA to beat England in the other resulting in an Aus v SA final, with the winner being…

      • Roar Guru

        May 5th 2017 @ 2:58pm
        Amritangshu Bandyopadhyay said | May 5th 2017 @ 2:58pm | ! Report

        The winner being South Africa, everybody wrote off my prediction that South Africa can beat Australia in Australia despite not having Ab De Vililers, they won it 2-1, Du Plessis proved he was a better captain than De Villiers

    • May 5th 2017 @ 4:07pm
      Pope Paul VII said | May 5th 2017 @ 4:07pm | ! Report

      in other news West Indies won a test! Shannon Gabriel 5/11. Yassy Shah 7/94.

    • May 5th 2017 @ 5:30pm
      Chui said | May 5th 2017 @ 5:30pm | ! Report

      This reads like a fluff piece from Cricket South Africa.

      Shouldn’t you be declaring a payment somewhere in the ‘article’ ?

      • May 5th 2017 @ 6:43pm
        davSA said | May 5th 2017 @ 6:43pm | ! Report

        The Cheque is in the post Chui ……. I mean your cheque for the silliest post so far.

      • Roar Guru

        May 5th 2017 @ 9:43pm
        Amritangshu Bandyopadhyay said | May 5th 2017 @ 9:43pm | ! Report

        I mean that is the general perception,the chokers’ tag is so infamously connected to South Africa in major events, that any praiseworthy piece highlighting their balance and team culture would often be looked down upon. I wish I could’ve submitted this to SuperSport, perhaps I would have got a payment

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