CAPE TOWN – “Batsmen win you games, bowlers win you tournaments.” This was an evocative headline during the last ICC Champions Trophy in England two years ago.
Not surprisingly it was uttered by a bowling coach, former Pakistan all-rounder Azar Mahmood. Having enjoyed a stellar county career with both Kent and Surrey, Mahmood was well-versed in English conditions and carried that knowledge over to the Pakistan team.
History, of course, tells us that Mahmood was spot on, with Pakistan’s superb bowling unit driving them to the Champions Trophy title much to everyone’s surprise.
It seems now that South Africa are going to take a leaf out of their Asian rivals’ copybook regarding how they will approach their World Cup challenge in the same conditions later this year. That’s at least what Proteas captain Faf du Plessis alluded to after his team completed their World Cup preparations with a 5-0 whitewash over Sri Lanka at Newlands on Saturday evening.
“Nobody would have said Pakistan would be close to favourites going into the Champions Trophy. They just managed to bowl well together as a unit, and they just kept bowling teams out and surprised a lot of teams. We are going there with the exact same mindset,” Du Plessis said.
This would certainly contrast with how the Proteas arrived at previous World Cups. Not only were they routinely among the favourites to lift the golden trophy, but their batting line-up would also be stocked to the brim. But with the Proteas now also being guided by a former bowling coach in Barbadian Ottis Gibson, the tide has turned to a more bowler-orientated strategy, particularly regarding pace bowlers Dale Steyn, Kagiso Rabada, Lungi Ngidi and Anrich Nortje.
“If you can bowl teams out, you need to score fewer runs. I have sat on the other side of the fence when we have had very long and strong batting line-ups in tournaments before, and it didn’t prove successful for us as a team. Therefore, you can only learn from your mistakes and look at other teams that have got it right,” Du Plessis said.
“It is a trade-off that we don’t have a long batting line-up, but statistically we have looked at it long and hard and worked on the style of the team that has the potential to win it. We believe that if your bowlers can win you matches, you have a good chance.”
Meanwhile, the national selectors have named three new caps in the T20 squads to face Sri Lanka, with Aiden Markram and Warriors duo Nortje and wicketkeeper/batsman Sinethemba Qeshile called up.
Proteas squad (for 1st T20I against Sri Lanka):
Faf du Plessis (cap), Quinton de Kock, JP Duminy, Reeza Hendricks, Imran Tahir, Aiden Markram, David Miller, Lungi Ngidi, Anrich Nortje, Andile Phehlukwayo, Dwaine Pretorius, Kagiso Rabada, Tabraiz Shamsi, Dale Steyn, Rassie vd Dussen.
Proteas squad (for 2nd and 3rd T20 against Sri Lanka):
JP Duminy (cap), Reeza Hendricks, Aiden Markram, David Miller, Chris Morris, Anrich Nortje, Andile Phehlukwayo, Dwaine Pretorius, Sinethemba Qeshile, Tabraiz, Lutho Sipamla, Dale Steyn, Rassie van der Dussen.
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