Sunday Times

Zim­babwe to kick-start SA’s World Cup charge

- By KHANYISO TSHWAKU

● To­day marks ex­actly seven months un­til SA face Eng­land in the open­ing Cricket World Cup match at the Oval.

The fact that SA are host­ing Zim­babwe in the first of three ODIs in Kim­ber­ley could be seen as folly con­sid­er­ing the north­ern neigh­bours won’t be part of the show­piece.

How­ever, it is the first of 16 matches Ot­tis Gib­son will have to shape what re­mains of his World Cup pic­ture.

What ap­peared on the can­vas af­ter the first three Sri Lanka ODIs was de­cent but the last set of re­sults again set pulses rac­ing even though the se­ries was com­fort­ably won.

Sri Lanka will be SA’s last ODI en­gage­ment in a five­match se­ries in March be­fore the Eng­land game but mid­dle-time is ex­actly that, re­gard­less of the strength of the

SA’s mid­dle order has a rep­u­ta­tion for wilt­ing un­der the fierce heat of pres­sure

op­po­si­tion.

Sri Lanka were be­low-par in the Asia Cup where they didn’t make the Su­per Four while Pak­istan nat­u­rally blew hot and cold.

What those sides will do is to again test SA’s ef­fi­ciency against spin bowl­ing and a bat­ting de­part­ment that was re­peat­edly shown up by In­dia ear­lier this year. But there’s the mat­ter of nav­i­gat­ing a Zim­bab­wean side that’s not strong, but one that should af­ford some sec­ond stringers some much needed game time.

It does make sense that Faf du Plessis and Hashim Amla skip this se­ries with a three-match ODI meet­ing with Aus­tralia loom­ing in Novem­ber.

Dale Steyn has to work him­self back to a de­cent in­ter­na­tional bowl­ing steam de­spite rea­son­able show­ings for Hamp­shire in Eng­land and Sri Lanka, while Dean El­gar slots into the bat­ting puz­zle cre­ated by AB de Villiers’s sur­prise re­tire­ment.

El­gar’s selection was al­ways go­ing to raise eye­brows with mem­o­ries float­ing back to 2015 when he slot­ted in as a re­place­ment in an ODI against In­dia while Khaya Zondo was al­ready with the team, but El­gar has de­cent List A num­bers.

A school of thought has also en­quired about Temba Bavuma’s us­abil­ity as a lim­ited-overs bats­man that’s backed up by a cen­tury on de­but against Ire­land two years ago. It is a rea­son­able call and a de­ci­sion that Gib­son will have to make in the course of the 16 ODIs be­tween now and March 16 when the fifth ODI against Sri Lanka in Cape Town con­cludes.

There are con­tests within con­tests with the likes of Reeza Hen­dricks stak­ing se­ri­ous claims and ques­tions be­ing asked of David Miller.

SA’s mid­dle order has a rep­u­ta­tion for wilt­ing un­der the fierce heat of pres­sure and that’s some­thing that re­quires ur­gent rec­ti­fi­ca­tion.

The 10-team World Cup will use the highly suc­cess­ful 1992 for­mat in which every team plays against each other and all the weak­nesses will be ex­posed. Only the top four teams will con­test play-off spots in what is a user-friendly and prac­ti­cal for­mat.

The Zim­babwe se­ries does look like the se­ries of class ex­er­cises ahead of the con­trolled tests later in the sum­mer ahead of the month-long exam in the UK. Whether SA will be ad­e­quately pre­pared will be seen then, but the seed lay­ing be­gins to­day.

 ??  ?? Dale Steyn and Dean El­gar will have dif­fer­ent lim­ite­dovers points to prove in what will be a se­ri­ous sum­mer
Dale Steyn and Dean El­gar will have dif­fer­ent lim­ite­dovers points to prove in what will be a se­ri­ous sum­mer
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