Dubai - South Africa start their Twenty20 World Cup campaign against Australia on Saturday as the underdogs.
This despite the fact that Temba Bavuma’s men have had a decent build-up leading up to the tournament. They have won away series in the West Indies, Ireland and Sri Lanka.
There is little doubt, though, that South Africa possess great T20 players that could easily sway any contest in their favour on their day.
Senior cricket writer, Zaahier Adams, who will cover the World Cup for Independent Media, picks five players who must shine against Australia when the two giant nations clash.
1. QUINTON DE KOCK
South Africa’s talisman has been quiet during the warm-up games, but that’s how the big players operate. As Gary Kirsten always said, don’t waste your runs in warm-up matches. De Kock holds the key to the Proteas’ chances at this T20 World Cup more than any other player.
His runs don’t just add up on the scoreboard but the destructive manner in which he gets them really puts the Proteas on the front foot.
At 28, he is no longer the baby-faced assassin but a cold blooded slaughterer of attacks.
His Indian Premier League experience, having won the tournament here in the United Arab Emirates last year with the Mumbai Indians, will be also invaluable within the Proteas environment.
2. AIDEN MARKRAM
Another former South African boy wonder who has now matured into a fully-fledged international cricketer. After years of not understanding his white-ball game, Markram has taken the bull by the horns and decided to play his natural attacking game – and it has reaped the rewards.
It has helped he has had the unconditional support of coach Mark Boucher, who has invested heavily in Markram’s “once-in-a-generational” talents.
The faith has certainly been rewarded with Markram now South Africa’s highest ranked T20 batter in the world after a string of consecutive good scores in the shortest format. He also loves playing against the Aussies – ever since defeating them in the U19 World Cup final in the UAE.
3. BJORN FORTUIN
The wiry left-arm spinner was the unfortunate victim of George Linde’s omission from the final T20 World Cup squad. While the treatment of Linde was atrocious, it was also unfair that Fortuin was labelled a “quota selection” on social media after being a solid performer on the international and domestic scene.
The criticism has since galvanized him, with Fortuin delivering new-ball exceptional spells within the PowerPlay overs.
His battle with Australia’s powerful openers Aaron Finch and David Warner has the potential to set the tone for the match.
4. KAGISO RABADA
South Africa’s fast bowling talisman has blown hot and cold over the past year, but there is nothing like a high-profile match against the Australians to get Rabada’s blood pumping.
His fiery history with the Aussies is well-documented, although he now shares a Delhi Capitals dressing room with arch-nemesis Steve Smith which may have cooled the rivalry over the years. This may be the case, but don’t expect anything less than Rabada to come charging in against the men in canary yellow and green trim.
5. TEMBA BAVUMA
The South African skipper divides opinion in terms of his batting value to the Proteas T20 side, especially as he has yet to settle into a particular position. It is expected that Bavuma will open after recovering from a hand
injury, although he came in at No 4 in the final warm-up match against Pakistan. What is unquestionable though is his ability as a leader and the calmness that he exudes on the field. He will need this and more when the heat undoubtedly gets turned up tomorrow.