Cricket-Under the radar South Africa looking to surprise

  • Cricket
  • Monday, 02 Oct 2023

FILE PHOTO:Cricket - Fourth One Day International - South Africa v Australia - SuperSport Park Cricket Stadium, Centurion, South Africa - September 15, 2023 South Africa players celebrate after the match REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko/File Photo

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - The Cricket World Cup trophy has proven elusive for South Africa over the years, with the side earning the tag of "chokers" after a series of failures, and while they hope to spring a surprise this year they arrive in India with less expectation of success.

South Africa have genuine match-winners in their ranks, players who can light up the big stage, but whether they have a team from one-to-11 that can perform consistently in Indian conditions is the big question.

They have reached the semi-finals four times in eight appearances at the tournament and while they should not be written off as title contenders they are more dark horses than leading lights.

South Africa’s shock exit at last year’s Twenty20 World Cup following a loss to the Netherlands with much the same group of players still weighs heavy on captain Temba Bavuma.

"We’ve been challenging each other to make sure that awareness is there and we’re not taking things for granted," he told reporters.

"But we’ve also needed to find actual, practical ways as to what we need to do to keep that awareness up and ensure that our eye is on the ball, and we try stay in the present moment as much as we can."

On the face of it, South Africa do have a team capable of success, as they showed in a recent 3-2 home series win over Australia in which they rallied from 2-0 down.

But that series also showcased their frustrating inconsistency.

They have some of the game's most powerful hitters in David Miller, Heinrich Klaasen, Aiden Markram and Quinton de Kock, who doubles up as wicketkeeper to allow them to play an extra all-rounder.

There are two experienced spinners in Keshav Maharaj and Tabraiz Shamsi, with Markram a handy third option.

But it is their seamer depth that looks light, bar stalwart Kagiso Rabada and the inconsistent Lungi Ngidi. The loss of fast bowler Anrich Nortje to injury ahead of the tournament was a huge blow.

"The biggest thing with Anrich is the experience and his leadership within the team. That leadership part isn't easily replaced," Bavuma said.

"If we do decide to still go (with pace), Gerald (Coetzee) can do that role. He doesn't have Anrich's experience, but he will only get that by playing."

The two genuine all-rounders in the team, Marco Jansen and Andile Phehlukwayo, also tend to blow hot and cold with both bat and ball.

But if South Africa can get on a run and find collective form they could prove hard to stop.

(Reporting by Nick Said; Editing by Peter Rutherford)

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