Proteas dare to dream

Sport24 columnist Pat Symcox (File)
Sport24 columnist Pat Symcox (File)
On the treadmill that is T20 international cricket, the ability to turn one’s fortunes around almost overnight is critical to one’s long-term success.

While South Africa’s defeat to Sri Lanka in their opening fixture was unacceptable – having lost from a winning position – the role reversal against New Zealand may prove the catalyst which propels the Proteas to the next level.

For Faf du Plessis, the two-run win over the Black Caps must surely rank as one of the sweetest wins of his young international captaincy career.

Not only did his on-field plan come together and result in victory, but it came at a time when the odds were firmly stacked against his side.

Moreover, Dale Steyn’s bowling at the death of the innings was stuff dreams are made of. The paceman’s confidence is undoubtedly at an all-time high.

Imran Tahir, meanwhile, continues to perform a top job in the middle overs as batsmen have taken him on, often against the spin, on slow tracks which has ultimately led to their demise.

On the downside, as far as South Africa’s bowling unit is shaping up, first and foremost, Morne Morkel’s inconsistency with the white ball in hand represents a valid point of concern.

The lanky seamer has found it challenging to hit the right length thus far and when that proves the case, his pace and bounce makes him a prime target for batsmen on the Bangladeshi wickets.

I believe Morkel – who conceded 50 runs in three over against the Kiwis – would be best served bowling more yorkers and varying his tactics by offering slower deliveries and the odd throat-ball.

Meanwhile, Albie Morkel and Lonwabo Tsotsobe appear to be caught between game plans at present.

Naturally the pair will continue to be targeted owing to their lack of genuine pace, however, that’s the very nature of their trade and they somehow need to find a way to limit boundaries.

In terms of the batting department, a pleasing aspect which emerged from the win over New Zealand was that JP Duminy can now be classified as game changer for the Proteas.

While the cricket world knows only too well of the destructive force the likes of AB de Villiers and David Miller pose, when a team wins without a massive contribution from one of their proverbial ‘big wickets’, talking from experience, it builds a great deal of confidence within a side.

And with the likes of Quinton de Kock and Du Plessis still to hit their straps with willow in hand, as well as Albie Morkel further down the order, South Africa’s forthcoming opponents will know that if all the elements of their game come together, the Proteas will prove very tough to beat.

For me, the most gratifying aspect of the Proteas’ triumph over the Black Caps was the fact that as a team they held their nerve when the going got tough. Even though the T20 format is a hurried one, there appeared to be a calmness that existed on the field of play just as the mayhem was unfolding.

Crucially, Du Plessis placed the correct fielders in vital catching and run-saving positions and from a captaincy perspective maintained composure under pressure. This is something which once experienced, will stay with him.

Owing to the makeup of the game’s shortest format, loses are a given – the Sri Lanka defeat was one such mishap. However, the key is to win more games than you lose and to win when it matters most.

Post defeat to Sri Lanka, not many, myself included, saw the Proteas as genuine title contenders.

However, after the Kiwi win, the dream of going all the way now doesn’t seem that far-fetched.

Symcox, a former South Africa international, is a self-proclaimed cricket fanatic, struggling golfer and addicted writer.

Disclaimer:
Sport24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on Sport24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Sport24.
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