All eyes on Skies

2014-03-12 00:00

BOTH the Proteas and Australians have their eyes cast to the heavens ahead of today’s second T20 international at Kingsmead, both desperate for game time ahead of the ICC World Twenty20 starting in Bangladesh on March 16.

With Sunday’s opening encounter of the three-match series washed out in Port Elizabeth, this is the final chance the sides have of ironing out the bumps before flying to the sub-continent.

“It’s important to get game time and for the guys who haven’t played much cricket of late to spend time in the middle,” said Proteas T20 captain Faf du Plessis. “With the T20 World Cup just days away it’s not the ideal preparation and it’s frustrating waiting around, un­able to control circumstances.”

Despite Du Plessis and his team not playing an international T20 since November last year — against Pakistan at Newlands — the skipper was confident his men were ready for the Australian challenge and what lay ahead.

“We are ready for these remaining two matches against Australia and the World Cup. Some of the guys will need to get used to the white ball again, but we have in-form players who, in this day and age of cricket, can adapt and change their game to what is required,” he said.

“There are players in great form in the side who had a great domestic T20 season, batsmen who are hitting the ball well and bowlers who are finding their line at vital times. It takes two or three of these players to find form in order to be successful in matches.”

Titans all-rounder Albie Morkel returns to the fold after nearly two years and Du Plessis indicated he will use him in a certain role in the team. “Albie has vast experience in this format and his swing with the ball could be important to us early in an innings, rather than at the death and we all know how devastating he can be with the bat when runs are needed quickly,” he said.

Du Plessis was not underestimating the Australians though, despite a vastly different group of players on the team-sheet as opposed to the recent Test matches. “Their squad is strong, with all players able to put skills on the table,” he said. “They are dangerous up front where they pose a huge threat if they get a great start. We need to get wickets early and have the advantage when it comes to the mental edge.”

However, Du Plessis is quietly confident ahead of today’s match and backs his team to produce the goods.

“The past few seasons we have been experimenting with players and building a solid squad ahead of the World Cup,” he said. “I believe we have achieved this with a solid top six in the batting order and valuable players in the best spots. We have a balanced side.”

Australian all-rounder Shane Watson said the men from Down Under were also keen for game time today and was hoping the weather broke to allow the few hours needed to have a go.

“This current squad is the most balanced I have had the privilege to be part of,” he said. “We have firepower in the batting and high quality bowlers who show their versatility in all conditions. There are definitely match-winners in our team, but this format of cricket is so fickle we just have to take on the game and play with the freedom our talent allows.”

While saying that about his side, Watson was wary of who was in the Proteas camp. “They also have massive players and game-changers. AB de Villiers is the world’s best batsmen in all formats, Faf du Plessis has found form of late and David Miller can take a game away from you in the blink of an eye,” he said.

Today’s match starts at 6 pm.

ANOTHER man watching the skies with perhaps more concern than the players is Kingsmead Stadium manager Brett Proctor. “Tomorrow’s [today’s] forecast has indicated less rain than today [yesterday] and we have all but sold out for the match with a few hundred tickets left. We are expecting a massive turn-out and all I ask the weather gods is to give me at least seven overs,” he said.

Today’s forecast does indeed look more promising, with the mercury reaching a maximum of 26° C, around 24° C at 5 pm. While cloudy, overcast conditions prevail in the morning with a slight south-westerly breeze, there is a possibility of light rain predicted in the early evening.

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