Proteas must put heads down ahead of tournament-defining run

Faf du Plessis (Getty Images)
Faf du Plessis (Getty Images)

London - Having played three matches in the first seven days of the 2019 World Cup, the Proteas have had to be patient on the sidelines since. 

Their last full outing was the six-wicket loss to India at the Rose Bowl in Southampton on June 5, and since then the only cricket the Proteas have played are the 7.3 overs that West Indies bowled to them on Sunday before that match was washed out. 

It means that when South Africa take on Afghanistan in Cardiff this Saturday, it will effectively be their first full match in 10 days, which is in complete contrast to their frantic demands in the first week of the tournament. 

The break might have been welcomed were the Proteas not sitting on a solitary log point from their four outings so far. 

At the moment, a semi-final spot looks a million miles away. 

They know there is no room left for error, and South Africa must knuckle down in Cardiff over the next couple of days and deliver a clinical, dominating performance against Afghanistan on Saturday. 

It has been cold and wet in England all week, and it was a minor miracle that Australia were able to get a full game in against Pakistan in Taunton on Wednesday. 

South Africa need that kind of assistance on Saturday. 

A quick look at the weather forecast suggests that the Proteas could run into trouble in that department once more. 

There is a 70% chance of showers throughout the morning and early afternoon, while that drops to 25% in the evening. 

It does not look overly promising, but this is the only day/night match South Africa play in the pool stages so the 13:30 start (UK time) could work in their favour. 

If the weather does result in another washout, the result would be simply disastrous for South Africa, who are already staring a World Cup exit in the face. 

As speedster Kagiso Rabada said ahead of the West Indies match, the Proteas can only "control the controllables", and there are plenty of those to consider before they pay any attention to the weather. 

They have had their troubles with injury, but South Africa have been nowhere near good enough on the field. 

The batsmen in the top order need to step up and take responsibility and somebody needs to finally play a knock of match-winning substance, while Rabada and the rest of the attack need to build on the fire they showed against India in was probably the team's best bowling performance of the competition so far.

The World Cup has been an absolute nightmare for the Proteas, and this time away from the spotlight has hopefully been used for some introspection and getting into the right frame of mind ahead of a tournament-defining few weeks. 

There is good news on the injury front with strapping fast bowler Lungi Ngidi expected to be available for selection having recovered from a hamstring strain.

Sport24 will be arriving Cardiff on Thursday afternoon and will be bringing you all of the updates from the Proteas camp. 

@LloydBurnard is in England covering the 2019 Cricket World Cup for Sport24 ...   

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England 219
Pakistan 326 & 137/8 (44 ov)
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England 219
Pakistan 326 & 137/8 (44 ov)
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