Time to click into gear

2014-03-29 00:00

AFTER two “back door” wins in the ICC World Twenty20 in Bangladesh, it’s time — or South Africans hope it’s time — for the Proteas to put their foot on the pedal and stand tall against England in Chittagong today.

Last-gasp efforts to get across the line against New Zealand and the Netherlands have seen the Proteas remain in the competition by the skin of their teeth and they will be the first to admit that despite selecting what is believed to be the best starting 11 for each match — although that is open to major debate — the wheels have wobbled terribly and haven’t quite fallen off yet.

The Proteas are currently second in their group, way behind Sri Lanka as far as run rate goes, but their opponents today gave them some breathing space by beating the islanders in a high scoring affair on Thursday.

What today’s match comes down to is simple mathematics. If the Proteas win, they will be through to the semi-final stage by virtue of New Zealand and Sri Lanka yet to play each other with one of them destined to lose.

If the Proteas lose, then they are in danger of maintaining their poor record at ICC competitions and could face an early flight home depending on what happens in the remaining group matches, bearing in mind that New Zealand still have to play the Netherlands and could show no mercy in that clash.

But back to today’s important meeting. Besides the lack of confidence displayed by the Proteas to date and some mind boggling batting and bowling decisions, more fuel has been added to the fire with the one-match suspension given to captain Faf du Plessis for a slow over rate in the last game against the Netherlands where the Proteas finished an over short of their target.

This was Du Plessis’s second over rate offence at the tournament as he finished two overs short of the mark in the game against New Zealand. According to ICC rules, two such offences in the same format within a 12-month period automatically receives a one-match suspension.

This means AB de Villiers will take over the captaincy and surely sanity must prevail in the bowling and batting departments as time is really running out when it comes to trying new, sometimes ludicrous batting line ups and bowling options.

In the top order to date, Hashim Amla has surprisingly been the most consistent of the bunch and while De Villiers, Quinton de Kock and JP Duminy have shown some form, they need to produce when it counts, although Duminy’s 84* against New Zealand shows he can get the job done when it matters.

David Miller needs to spend some time at the wicket and promotion up the order with Du Plessis absent could herald his defining moment in what has been a frustrating time for him as he comes to the wicket on most occasions trying to patch up a ship sinking faster than the Titanic. It looks as though Farhaan Berhardien will get the nod and with Wayne Parnell back in the ranks after his court appearance in Mumbai, either last match’s debutant Beuran Hendricks or Lonwabo Tsotsobe, who has been struggling with his line and length could be dropped. There’s a chance both could be warming the bench if Morné Morkel gets the nod.

For England, confidence could not be higher. Chasing down 190 against Sri Lanka to win by six wickets was just the belief they needed at a vital time. A loss for them will effectively end their hopes, but opener Alex Hales’s unbeaten 116 from 64 balls should have the Protea bowlers hard at work in creating a decent gameplan to nullify his willow wielding up front. In all likelihood, they should field an unchanged side.

It’s a tough match to pick a winner. The sides have met eight times in T20 Internationals, England winning three, South Africa four and one no result.

“We know we have to beat England today to progress. There’s a possibility that whoever progresses from the group is determined on run rate so we have plenty to play for,” said Protea coach Russel Domingo. “England have quality batting and bowling and we will have to work on our strategies.”

England captain Stuart Broad was mindful that the Proteas could click into gear today. “They haven’t fired as everyone would expect them to but key players have taken them across the line when it matters. We have to respect them,” he said.

Today’s match starts at 3.30 pm (SA time) and is telecast on SuperSport 2 and 2HD.

In the early match (11.30  am), New Zealand and the Netherlands square off.

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