Cricket World Cup 2011
Proteas eye top two finish
Johan Botha (AFP)
Cape Town - The Proteas’ match against India last Saturday was always going to be the real start of South Africa’s ICC Cricket World Cup campaign on the sub-continent.Video: Biff on beating India
Video: Five wickets in 16 balls from the Proteas main strike bowler
It marked the start of a period when the Proteas play 3 matches in the space of 8 days and this is followed by a potential knock-out phase of another 3 matches in the following 14 days.
In the first few weeks the Proteas were faced with the almost impossible task of trying to get some rhythm going or momentum building.
They have already been in India for a month and 6 days and, even allowing for the fact that February is a short month, this is a long period of time in which to play only 4 matches.
Now they have the chance to get into normal series-playing mode. Three wins out of four is probably a good balance sheet so far particularly as they have played all their major opponents in Group B and should strengthen their chances of finishing either first or second on the log with a victory over Ireland at Kolkata on Tuesday (11:00 SA time).
A victory will mean that England cannot finish ahead of them regardless of the outcome of their final match against the West Indies while only one out of India or the West Indies would be able to finish ahead of them depending on the outcome of the final group match between those two sides.
Bangladesh are also in the picture but the Proteas have the opportunity to shut them out in their final Group B match on Saturday.
What the first few weeks of the tournament have shown is that the selectors have made some extremely wise – and in some cases inspired – selections in their World Cup squad.
The injury to Imran Tahir has shown how important it was to have three specialist spinners in the squad and all three of them have made major contributions to the team’s successes.
Imran Tahir has been the talk of the tournament as far as World Cup rookies are concerned and is regarded as the Proteas’ tournament trump card by many of the ring-wiser pundits including Ian Chappell, Nasser Hussain and Ravi Shastri.
His injury dominated the headlines for two or three days which is an indication of the standing and respect he enjoys.
Robin Peterson would have been man of the match against England had his batting colleagues performed a fraction better and his all-round contribution (as batsman, bowler and fielder) against India was immense.
Johan Botha was the unsung hero of the Indian victory because he was the player to get control back for Graeme Smith after the blitzkrieg start. He again is an outstanding fielder and his batting continues to grow in leaps and bounds.
While Botha and Morne Morkel have done the holding job, the trio of Tahir, Peterson and Dale Steyn have taken 28 wickets between them which is why the Proteas continue to bowl out all their opponents inside the 50 overs.
Saturday was a watershed day for both Peterson and Faf du Plessis because it was the day on which they announced that they have come to stay as valuable members of the Proteas’ ODI line-up.
There are now a lot of calm and wise heads in this Proteas’ squad. What has been achieved so far has been a team effort and that augurs well for the ‘sudden death’ road ahead.