Clearing the mental fog from back-to-back defeats in India, South Africa have begun their final preparations for the men’s T20 World Cup with a nine-wicket win over New Zealand in the first of two warm-up games. The team arrived in Australia last week, straight from India, where they played six white ball games and lost four.
“India has been a very long tour for us mentally and coming back from two losses in the series it was important that we try to generate some momentum in these warm-up games,” South Africa reserve captain Keshav Maharaj said. “Warm-up games can be monotonous and lose intensity, but the lads were very professional on the field.”
Despite being in India for just over two weeks, South Africa lost both the T20I and ODI series, muddled their World Cup hopes in both formats. The T20I series loss was South Africa’s first in six series, while their ODI blow has left them in a precarious position in the World Cup Super League points table – 11th – with just five games left. And that wasn’t all that went wrong in India, where Mark Boucher oversaw his last bilateral tour as South Africa’s coach.
Dwaine Pretorius broke his thumb and was disqualified from the T20 World Championship, regular white-ball captain Temba Bavuma scored 11 runs in four innings on his comeback from an elbow injury and then fell ill and has not played since; and left arm wrist spinner, Tabraiz Shamsi, suffered an alarming drop in form before also finding himself in the hospital bed. At least one of them seems closer to a solution.
Shamsi went 2-6 in three overs in the warm-up and bowled “exceptionally well,” according to Maharaj, who finished 3-17. It’s good to see Shammo at his best again,” Maharaj said. “He’s going to have a big hand in this World Cup.”
Bavuma, meanwhile, should be back in South Africa’s second warm-up game against Bangladesh on Wednesday, which will be his last chance to find form before the tournament begins. “Temba is slowly coming back into play. We’ll probably see him in the next game,” Maharaj said. “He’s preparing well for the World Cup.”
Bavuma continues to have his team’s support despite the rut he’s in and concerns about his T20 batting average in a squad where there’s stiff competition for top-three spots. If Bavuma plays, one of Reeza Hendricks, Quinton de Kock or Rilee Rossouw will have to sit out. De Kock was rested for the warm-up game, Hendricks hit a 24-ball 27 and Rossouw broke through the pursuit with 54 balls from 32 balls. “Rilee has been in spectacular form and he makes things look easier than they are,” Maharaj said. “Overall, it was a very disciplined performance from the boys.”