It’s time for the Proteas to sizzle

2009-09-24 00:00

SUDDENLY it’s a knockout tournament for South Africa. Lose today and the recently top-ranked side in one day cricket will be reduced to mere cheerleaders in their own back yard.

The manner of the loss to Sri Lanka on Tuesday was not entirely unexpected, as a side coming off their off-season collided with a quality outfit fresh from a series that also included India and South Africa’s opponents today, New Zealand.

The Kiwis are perennial dark horses, with enough talent to beat most of the teams gathered for this event.

The problems that surfaced for South Africa in Tuesday’s opener will certainly be targeted by the Black Caps, who have the explosive Brendon McCullum at the top of the order.

South Africa’s bowling is a major concern for Graeme Smith, with Wayne Parnell facing a major examination of his temperament.

The young Warriors paceman was ruthlessly treated by Sri Lanka’s batsmen in the first game, and his match figures of 3/79 were testimony to the brutal assault he suffered at the hands of Tillakaratne Dilshan.

“Obviously Wayne was tested, but the challenge for him now is to see how he can bounce back,” Smith offered.

“It doesn’t matter how long you have played this game, you will always have tough periods that you will have to overcome,” the skipper added.

Smith showed just how much faith he has in the young left-armer by bringing him back at the death, which saw him grab three consolation wickets.

“Ja, if you look at how well he came back, you can see that he is a fighter. I was always going to bring him back at that stage, and he didn’t let us down,” Smith said.

Smith said there is no temptation for changes to be made at this stage, putting their opening night horrors down to one bad night.

“Look, we have practised as much as we can. No amount of extra net practice will make us better or more ready. We just need to stick to our plans, and if we play as well as we know we can we will be fine.”

New Zealand have refused to be drawn into any predictions after the Proteas’ loss to Sri Lanka.

Captain Daniel Vettori, a wily campaigner who will be a key player himself, said they are expecting a backlash from the Proteas.

“We are under no illusions as to how good a unit they are. It doesn’t change much that they lost their first game.”

The likely inclusion of Jeetan Patel will see the Black Caps field two spinners, and the track at Centurion may well allow them to test South Africa’s mettle.

A good opening will be key for Smith’s men, especially as the ball will likely do a bit due to the extra early start.

In a year that has seen the Springboks undefeated against the All Blacks and Bafana pipping the All Whites at the Confederations Cup, it is almost unthinkable for South Africans to have their interests in this competition ended by a New Zealand team.

Smith, not averse to the odd piece of braaivleis, would hate to spoil National Braai Day festivities by losing.

It will be tense, indeed it may get tight, but the Proteas should find their stomach for the fight this morning.

South Africa (likely): Graeme Smith (capt), Hashim Amla, Jacques Kallis, AB de Villiers, JP Duminy, Mark Boucher (wk), Albie Morkel, Johan Botha, Roelof van der Merwe, Wayne Parnell, Dale Steyn.

New Zealand (likely): Brendon McCullum (wk), Jesse Ryder, Martin Guptill, Ross Taylor, Grant Elliott, Jacob Oram, Neil Broom, Daniel Vettori (capt), Jeetan Patel, Shane Bond, Jeetan Patel.

TV times: From 9 am on SABC 3 and Supersport 2.

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