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Unstable Proteas prepare for T20 World Cup

Updated: Oct 18, 2021

As the ICC Twenty20 World Cup looms, Cricket South Africa continues to be plagued by misfortunes both on and off the field of play. Following their final World Cup preparations in Sri Lanka, the Proteas are evidently far from their historical best and are questionably at one of their lowest point for up to two decades.

Ahead of the imminent T20 World Cup, South Africa are placed 5th in the International Cricket Council (ICC) T20I rankings. Aside from their tour of the West Indies mid-year, the Proteas’ most recent World Cup preparations came against Ireland and Sri Lanka – two nations who are yet to qualify for the World Cup which officially starts today.

After series defeats both at home and away to Pakistan earlier this year, South Africa toured the Caribbean in June where they beat West Indies, 2-0, in a two-match Test series in St. Lucia and later won 3-2 in a five-match T20I series in Grenada.

In July SA travelled to Ireland for a six-match white ball series in Dublin comprising of three ODIs and three T20Is. The ODI series was drawn 1-1 after the opener was washed out by heavy rain. The Irish won the 2nd ODI by 43 runs before SA levelled the series with a 70-run victory in the decider.

SA then won the T20I series, 3-0.

The Proteas returned home with the T20 World Cup less than three months away and with the team still yet to be tested by world-class opposition.

South Africa jetted off for Sri Lanka at the end of August ahead of another six-match white ball series, this time on the subcontinent. All six clashes took place in Colombo.

Sri Lanka won the first ODI by 14 runs as South Africa one-day skipper Temba Bavuma sustained a broken thumb and he returned home on medical grounds for surgery.

In a rain-affected 2nd ODI, play was initially suspended for a wet outfield. Keshav Maharaj was stand-in captain in Bavuma's absence and the spin bowler led the Proteas to a 67-run win, via the Duckworth/Lewis method. Opening batsman Janneman Malan top-scored with 121 runs. Reeza Hendricks contributed 51, Heinrich Klaasen 43.

In the 3rd and final 50-over match between the nations, Sri Lanka won the toss and chose to bat first and the Lions posted 203/9. SA's batting structure collapsed and they found themselves on 48 runs for 5 wickets. Nine Proteas batsmen were dismissed for less than 20 runs, as Sri Lanka won the deciding ODI by 78 runs to claim the series, 2-1.

The first T20I took place on 10 September as the teams switched from 50 overs to 20. Aiden Markram hit 48 runs from 33 deliveries to help SA to a score of 163/5. The Proteas then restricted Sri Lanka to 135 runs in their 20 overs and the visitors won by 28 runs.

South Africa meant business coming into the second and penultimate Twenty20 and when the hosts won the toss they opted to bat. South Africa's spin bowlers stole the show as Markram and Tabraiz Shamsi took 3 wickets apiece, and Bjorn Fortuin collected a further two scalps.

Sri Lanka posted 103 all out and SA duly won by 9 wickets with 35 balls to spare, as Mark Boucher's men wrapped up the T20 series.

In the third and final T20I Sri Lanka again won the toss and once more chose to bat first. Fortuin bagged another 2 wickets as did pace bowler Kagiso Rabada, Sri Lanka ended on 120/8.

SA's opening pair of Hendricks and Quinton de Kock each recorded a half-ton as the Proteas won by 10 wickets to complete a series whitewash of the Sri Lankans on their home turf.

Prior to the tour of Sri Lanka the Proteas were rocked by the resignation of assistant coach Enoch Nkwe, less than 24 hours before the team jetted off for their final preparations prior to the T20 World Cup. Nkwe also previously pulled out of SA's tour of West Indies due to personal reasons.

After being appointed CSA's interim Director of cricket in late 2019, Graeme Smith demoted interim head coach Nkwe and replaced him with former Proteas teammate Mark Boucher, who at the time did not have the coaching licenses required to manage a national team.

Nkwe is believed to have raised concerns about the 'culture and environment' surrounding the men's team, and his resignation came in the same week that saw growing calls for head coach Boucher to relinquish his position amidst the Social Justice and Nation-Building (SJN) hearings which implicated the former wicket-keeper in addition to countless others.

As if CSA did not already have enough crippling conundrums, SA's governing cricket council continues to fight a great deal of legal battles upstairs as well.

CSA launched the restorative SJN project which has so far witnessed countless heartbreaking testimonies aired in respect to racial discrimination and marginalisation in the sport.

Ombudsman Advocate Dumisa Ntsebeza was appointed to chair the hearings.

Former Proteas cricketers Aaron Phangiso, Alviro Petersen, Ashwell Prince, and Paul Adams are amongst a host of others who gave testimony in the first phase of the process.

The SJN resumes on Monday, 18 October, coinciding with the start of the World Cup, and there is little to no doubt that the findings by Ombudsman Ntsebeza may have bearings on the Proteas’ on-field performances in the UAE and Oman.

CSA announced last month the confirmation of a Proteas outbound tour to England commencing in July 2022, consisting of three One Day Internationals, three T20 internationals and three Test matches ending September 2022. Before then, and following the impending T20 World Cup, South Africa will host India for a 10-match battle with the men in blue who are currently ranked 2nd in both ICC Test and T20 rankings.

The tour commences in mid-December and concludes towards the end of January 2022.

India tour of South Africa 2021/22:

1st Test, 17-21 Dec, Johannesburg

2nd Test, 26-30 Dec, Centurion

3rd Test, 3-7 Jan, Johannesburg

1st ODI, 11 Jan, Paarl

2nd ODI, 14 Jan, Cape Town

3rd ODI, 16 Jan, Cape Town

1st T20I, 19 Jan, Cape Town

2nd T20I, 21 Jan, Cape Town

3rd T20I, 23 Jan, Paarl

4th T20I, 26 Jan, Paarl

Prior to India‘s inbound tour, however, both teams will of course be partaking in the T20 World Cup which was relocated away from India to the UAE, similarly to the last two editions of the Indian Premier League.

Despite series' victories over two bang average Sri Lankan and West Indian outfits as well as a below-par Ireland side, the Proteas have by no means been a convincing force in recent months and even years, and seem all but destined to collapse upon encountering the likes of Australia, England, India, New Zealand & Pakistan.

The World Cup officially commenced today Sunday 17 October with the group stage, before the Super 12 begins on Saturday as Australia take on South Africa. Before then the Proteas have two warm-up games against Afghanistan on 18 October and Pakistan two days later.

SA get their WC campaign underway against the Aussies on Friday 23 Oct, before they challenge the West Indies three days later. SA then play two qualifiers (opponents TBD) on Friday 30 October and Tuesday 2 November, later followed by their closing Pool A clash with England.

The top two teams from each pool (A and B) will emerge to qualify for the quarterfinals.

With or without home ground advantage, India are favourites at 3/1 to win the 2021 T20 World Cup.

England (4/1) are second favourites, whilst the trio of Australia, New Zealand and two-time defending champions West Indies all sit at 7/1 to achieve World Cup success.

South Africa have never progressed beyond the semifinals at a World Cup and are 12/1 to go all the way this year. Pakistan are 10/1 to win a second WC crown.

The 2021 edition is the 7th T20 WC, with the tournament previously known as the ICC World Twenty20. The Proteas have exited at the group stage in 4 of the past 6 editions of this competition, including in 2007 when the tournament was held in South Africa as well as the most recent edition five years ago in India, where SA failed to advance from their group and exited the competition with 2 wins from 4 games. In 2012 SA finished rock bottom of their pool, after they failed to register a win against any of Australia, India & Pakistan.

SA at the T20 World Cup/World Twenty20:

Year Host nation Exit stage

2007 South Africa Group stage

2009 England Semifinals

2010 West Indies Group stage

2012 Sri Lanka Group stage

2014 Bangladesh Semifinals

2016 India Group stage

SA at the ICC Cricket World Cup:

Year Host nation(s) Exit stage

1992 Australia/NZ Semifinals

1996 India/Pakistan/Sri Lanka QF

1999 England Semifinals

2003 SA/Kenya/Zimbabwe Group stage

2007 West Indies Semifinals

2011 India/Sri Lanka QF

2015 Australia/NZ Semifinals

2019 England/Wales Group stage

One legendary Protea who will not be representing his nation at the latest World Cup showpiece is that of Dale Steyn, who announced his retirement from the sport last month. SA with Steyn reached two semifinals at the World Twenty20 in 2009 and 2014. The seam bowler made his national debut against England in 2004, aged 21, and rose to prominence in the coming years.

In 2008 Steyn was named ICC Test Player of the Year after taking 86 wickets in 14 matches, and endured his best years between 2007 and 2013. Thereafter the pace bowler unfortunately became plagued with persistent injury problems and found his opportunities limited at national level.

Representing the Proteas, Steyn claimed 439 wickets in 93 test matches, which is the 5th-highest tally by a fast bowler behind only James Anderson (632*), Australian Glenn McGrath (563), Stuart Broad (524) and former West Indies captain Courtney Walsh (519).

Steyn took 196 scalps across 125 ODIs with South Africa, in addition to 64 wickets in 47 T20 internationals. Nicknamed the Phalaborwa Express, he also represented in excess of 15 domestic franchises across the globe.

Steyn announced his retirement from international cricket in 2019, before the 38-year-old hung up his boots from all forms of cricket just last month.

A seam bowler of Steyn’s craft and prowess is precisely what the Proteas lack present-day and that might seriously haunt South Africa at the World Cup. Chris Morris is undeniably one of the country's finest fast bowlers but the 34-year-old was omitted from the Proteas' World Cup squad.

Former skipper Faf du Plessis was also left out of SA's 18-man squad, which was named before du Plessis recently shone bright at the 2021 IPL in which the Chennai Super Kings' opening batsman fetched the 2nd-most runs (633) as CSK clinched their fourth IPL title.

South Africa players at IPL 2021:

Faf du Plessis - Chennai Super Kings

Imran Tahir - Chennai Super Kings

Lungi Ngidi - Chennai Super Kings Kagiso Rabada - Delhi Capitals Anrich Nortje - Delhi Capitals

Quinton de Kock - Mumbai Indians

Aiden Markram - Punjab Kings

Chris Morris - Rajasthan Royals

David Miller - Rajasthan Royals

Tabraiz Shamsi - Rajasthan Royals

AB de Villiers - Royal Challengers Bangalore

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