February 5, 2015 2:53:23 pm
South Africa, the perennial chokers, would like to get the monkey off their back and roar to maiden title triumph Down Under. Do they have the ingredients to cook the recipe? Here’s a quick look!
If you say South Africa, you refer to the chokers in cricket. Since 1992 when they first made their World Cup debut, they have been part of the drama. Whether D/L miscalculations, silly run-outs or brain freezes, SA have done it all to crash out of the WC from the knockout stages.
Once more they go into the tournament as one of the favourites, if not the favourites. At least, they have the numbers on their side.
South Africa have the second best win-loss ratio (1.52) in the last three years behind India (1.66).
Opening: He was once considered a Test batsman but Hashim Amla, the player who scored most ODI tons in 2014 (5), has evolved as an ODI batsman. The opener will spearhead SA’s batting and provide the platform for the likes of AB de Villiers and David Miller to attack in the death overs. The 5th highest run-getter of 2014 will also provide experience to his other opening partners in Quinton de Kock (35 ODI matches) and Rilliee Rossouw (9 ODI matches).
Amla and De Kock have had fruitful outings as a pair. They are now the 5th all-time best opening pair for SA with 1436 runs at an average of more than 51 (best among pairs with more than 1000 runs). In only 28 innings, they have 6 centuries partnerships. Their only worry is the recent form of De Kock who has played his last 9 ODI innings in Australia and New Zealand and has 5 single digit scores and only 1 fifty and 1 ton.
Bowling: A lot depends on their bowling led by two of the world’s best fast bowlers at the moment – Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel. Both combined to take 66 wickets in ODIs last year. While Steyn has pace and swing, Morkel can combine them with the bounce he generates. For sure, they will enjoy bowling on the pitches in Australia and New Zealand. Morkel was the highest wicket-taker in the series against Australia with 10 wickets.
Alongside these two, there will be Veron Philander, Kyle Abbott and Wayne Parnell. The spin department has an attacking Imran Tahir who has 55 wickets in 30 ODIs at an average of 20.23. The other spinner is young Aaron Phangiso, a slow left arm orthodox bowler. He may have only played 13 matches but is an economical bowler and can be used to run through the middle overs.
Weak middle-order: On paper, Faf du Plessis, JP Duminy, David Miller, Farhaan Behardien, could be the most attacking and stable middle-order but the form of all these players is a cause of concern. Duminy is coming out of a long injury lay-off and Du Plessis had a bad tour Down Under with only 97 runs in 5 matches. It all goes down to the same question – can South Africa pull off the tense run-chases and avoid the brain-freezes?
The AB Factor: South Africa and De Villiers are synonyms. The team depends a lot on the right-hander who will also lead them at the World Cup. The X-factor of the team, De Villiers will play an vital role if South Africa need to reach the final. But are South Africa over-dependent on him? Yes.
With the sluggish middle-order, De Villiers is the only hope. The opening pair is the Proteas’ strength and if De Villiers gets out early then their weakness is exposed. Over the last year, South Africa played 19 ODIs, winning 12 of them. De Villiers was part of 10 wins in which the team scored more than 48 runs per wicket. In the 2 wins not featuring De Villiers, the average drops down drastically to just over 30. He also has an impact on the run-rate as it drops from 5.84 to 5.20.
South Africa can go the distance if the batsmen provide able support to AB and Amla and the bowlers back their batsmen. In Pool A with India, Pakistan, West Indies, Zimbabwe, UAE and Ireland, there will be no surprises if they top the group but with South Africa, it’s the knockout phase where the adventure begins.
(All statistics are until 31st Dec 2014)
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