Third Man Cricket » 2017 Champions Trophy Preview – Proteas : An Expat Cricket Website
2017 Champions Trophy Preview – Proteas

Here we go again, another ICC event, another preview by yours truly, then a few weeks later I attempt an autopsy as to what went wrong. Hindsight is 20/20, I know.

My love and passion for this team has taught me one thing in life, that is…how to manage expectations. At the beginning of most tournaments, South Africa go in, dubbed as favorites but they usually find an exit in a knock out situation. Now it’s hard to tip them to win a tournament but like most of my sporting predictions, this is one I don’t mind getting wrong.

That said, they did win their 1st knockout match by beating a poor SL outfit in Sydney at the 2015 CWC, I was there for that match and thought the tide had changed. The men in green were truly unlucky in Auckland at the semi, when the weather robbed them of momentum and full 50 over match. Then a Mccullum blitz and a solid batting performance by another South African in the opponent’s team put the result to bed. They surely did have their chances though but blew it on the day. However, at the end of that contest I do think that the team won alot of neutral fans that day, everyone remembers the tears in AB, Morkel and co’s eyes. Not many opposition fans mentioned the infamous C word but until they lift an international trophy, that stigma will still haunt them.

My tournament favorites and team I tip to win the trophy is England. Them seem to have all the necessary boxes ticked to do so, great opening pair, strong hard hitting middle order, good leadership, a matching winner allrounder and good death bowling options. Add to that their latest disappointment in the T20 in India and them surely wanting to turn that around. Plus with their home support and knowledge of the conditions, I really do believe they will win. Great odds at 5-1 with most bookies. I accept thank you in beers, you welcome!

I also rate Australia’s chances with their fast bowling quartet of Starc, Cummins, Patterson and Hazelwood. Imagine what havoc they could cause on a seam friendly track. Coupled with Finch, Smith and Warner in the batting stocks and that’s a formidable team to take on.

India, the defending champions, with their strong batting will be hard to overlook especially with the best death bowler in their ranks and some decent (not amazing) quicks add two top notch spinners and they will be there knocking at the door.

SL still in their rebuilding stages after losing an exodus of great players will do well to win a match in their group. Bangladesh could surprise if conditions suit them on the day and NZ always seem to be in the final 4 come the end of the tournament. I do expect all 3 of these teams to fail to go through and I’ll be very surprised if any of these make the final.

The dark horse Pakistan is still that wildcard and with their home base support in Birmingham, who knows which playing XI will rock up on the day. The players themselves don’t even know and surely their fans have no clue too. Their batting needs to support a very strong bowling attack.

So, coming back to South Africa then. I fancy them getting to the semi finals. This can happen even with dropping a match in the group stages if other results go their way and if they maintain a good NRR. We rarely see a team going unbeaten to win a trophy bar the great Aussie teams in 2000 era, so if we drop a match it’s not the end of the world. It’s the bounce-back-ability that counts! The Proteas had this in the Graeme Smith led test team and they need to show it here. Being rank # 1 means nothing in a tournament like this. Looking back at last week, they should have won that 2nd ODI against England, hopefully they got the choke out the system early, how can you lose needing 10 runs of 10 balls with 5 wickets in hand?!?!? Great come back in the final match but conditions in the 1st hour surely assisted the quick bowlers.

The shorter format with just 5 matches will suit South Africa though. I joke with my cricket team in NY, that the World Cup/ICC Champs Trophy should be decided by who tops the log, obviously this is not going to happen. Producing the goods when it counts, absorbing the pressure and prevailing under those circumstances, those are the teams that win trophies. It could just be a player or two, look at MS Dhoni and how he filled that role for India and his IPL teams over the years. It’s that belief that you are still in it and the match is not lost until that final ball is bowled or last wicket falling. Who will be that player for the Proteas? Since, readmission only one man came close to wearing this title, but narrowly failed in a run out with Alan Donald at Edgbaston in that 1999 cricket world semi final.

Why they could win?

– Unlike the Australian World Cup in 2015, south-africa-mQuentin De Kock is firing on all cylinders. He comes in with great form across all formats and recently he picked up a number of accolades  in the South African annual ceremony. He is still only 24 remember. With Amla, bringing great form from the IPL, these two at the top could lay a solid foundation for the rest of the batting line up. They compliment each other well and have formed a solid bond and friendship and thoroughly enjoy batting with each other.

– Imran Tahir. After surprisingly been overlooked in the original IPL auction, and a late replacement pick for Pune, he showed the cricketing world why he’s the best limited over bowler in the world. 2019 is still some time away, he will be over 40 then, so this could be his last tournament, however I do see him playing in the next World Cup on current form. He’s no spring chicken even though his wicket celebrations suggest otherwise and he has only a few more opportunities now to lift a trophy with his adopted country. With his disguised googlies, variation in the speed and flight, he has been key to stopping the runs in those middle overs. He will be the go to man again and expect him to play in every match.

– AB DeVilliers. Enough said. Mr 360 wants to so badly win a trophy for his beloved country.

Why they may fail?

– The middle order is lacking form and game time. Miller and Faf didn’t participate much in this year’s IPL like they have in past tournaments. JP sat this tournament out citing personal reasons. AB for his high standards had a very average IPL with Bangalore. These batsman need to find form and do so quickly. Faf struggled in the ODI series with England, JP’s form is still a mystery to me, however Miller came close to taking SA home. At # 6 and with his performances in the past few years, SA would need a firing Killer Miller to lift the cup.

– Death bowling. South Africa has struggled with this for the last few years. Our best death bowler during that time was Kyle Abott but as we all know he is no longer in the set up. Morris, Rabada and Morkel (if he plays) need to not have the opposition run away with the match in the last 10 overs.

– Few outright specialist bowlers picked. However, the bowling all rounder options does bring about more depth to the batting department. The all rounders in Behardien, Lucky, Pretorius, Morris, Maharaj and Parnell need to know their jobs in each match. Their roles can differ in each outing with the composition of the playing 11 and with only 5 matches they need to adapt quickly. A question of too many cooks?

My starting XI:

– Amla (#10 ICC batting ranking)

– De Kock (#4 ICC batting ranking)

– Du Plessis (#6 ICC batting ranking)

– De Villiers (#1 ICC batting ranking)

– Duminy

– Miller

– Morris

– Parnell

– Rabada  (#1 ICC bowling ranking)

– Morkel

– Tahir (#2 ICC bowling ranking)

Successful opening pair, good middle order, 2 all rounders (Parnell picked in front of Lucky given his current form and bowling left handed which adds to a varied attack. He needs to show his talent and not buckle under pressure like he has done the past), Morkel picked to bring experience to the bowling line up (also, with his height and his short of a length bowling, he will create trouble for the opposition batsman with his bounce and JP Duminy brings in that 6th option in the bowling line up. All other picks are self explanatory. SA have 6 players in the top 10 of their respective rankings but as pointed out earlier that doesn’t mean anything come game time.

In reality though, they may pick Lucky ahead of Morkel, that fulfills the 6 player of color and 2 black players quota. Note this is only measured over a whole season and from all formats played (test, T20 and 50 overs). I still feel we need Morné especially with Steyn injured and not in the squad. Lucky has done very well this year but I feel we need some experience.

Predictions then:

SA vs Aus – semi

India vs England – semi

SA vs England – final

England – winner (I pray that I am wrong here)

To another great ICC trophy. Enjoy!!!


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