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12 February 201522:19

South Africa ICC Cricket World Cup 2015 Tournament Preview & Guide

It has all the ingredients that go into the making of a world-beating team. Is this finally going to be South Africa’s year?

South Africa ICC Cricket World Cup 2015 Tournament Preview & Guide - Cricket News

South Africa, on paper, is the team to beat in the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015.

South Africa can make fairly strong claims to being the unluckiest team in ICC Cricket World Cup history. It has been cricket’s foremost so-near-yet-so-far story. It came close in 1992. It came closer in 1999. It has always had players capable of brilliance; it has been a consistent supplier of all-time greats. Despite all that, it is still to win an ICC event. This time around, it possesses what has been talked up as its golden generation, and rightly so. Its squad list reads like an all-star line-up, and it is one of the favourites to win the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015. Riding on such high expectations, can it deliver?

World Cup History
South Africa has a frustrating World Cup history. In its inaugural campaign in 1992, it was left needing 21 runs off one ball in the semifinal against England due to the rain rule in use at the time. It made the quarterfinal in 1996, before agony ensued in the tied semi-final against Australia, which worked out better for Australia than it did for South Africa.

“I know that the current squad are good enough to win this year’s tournament and I expect that they will go deep. I am hoping that come 29 March 2015, this team will have a new tag of ‘the history-makers’.”

Graeme Smith - Former South Africa captain

In 2003, at home, South Africa was knocked out in the group stage itself after tying its last game against Sri Lanka when a win was needed, and reached the semis in 2007 but was ousted by Australia again, while in 2011 it couldn’t go past New Zealand in the quarterfinal despite topping their Pool in the initial stages.

Pool: South Africa is placed in Pool B alongside India, the defending champion, Pakistan, West Indies, Zimbabwe, Ireland and UAE.

Captain: AB de Villiers

Coach: Russell Domingo

Preview: In the years since its 2011 World Cup campaign, South Africa has had to deal with the retirement of stalwarts like Mark Boucher, Graeme Smith and Jacques Kallis. Rather than deterring its progress, South Africa has emerged a stronger and more effervescent unit. It heads into the 2015 World Cup as one of the favourites. As far as preparations are concerned, it hasn’t left too many stones unturned – in the months preceding the World Cup, it toured both New Zealand and Australia, faring well against the former but coming a cropper against the latter.

It’s a team that is high on morale, and with everything seemingly in the right place. Demons of the past have been touted as possible negative influences on the minds of the players, but South Africa’s coaching staff includes those who have experienced World Cup agony before, and they will surely know better than to repeat mistakes.

South Africa, on paper, is the team to beat in the series. It does lack an established seaming all-rounder, and that has been talked up as a possible weakness. However, such is the prowess of its specialists that it is expected to work around that.


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Strengths: South Africa possesses some of the best in the business, from the likes of Hashim Amla and AB de Villiers with the bat to Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel and Vernon Philander with the ball. They are all match-winners in their own right, capable of single-handedly taking on and bettering any challenge. Records fall by the wayside when these guys get going – against West Indies in January, de Villiers scored the fastest One-Day International century, off just 31 balls.

Amla, meanwhile, is the quickest to reach 2,000, 3,000, 4,000 and, most recently, 5,000 runs in the format in terms of innings played. Steyn will be a looming presence on South Africa’s opponents at the World Cup, through his persona as much as his bowling, as would Morkel and Philander. Then there are the likes of Faf du Plessis, Quinton de Kock, David Miller, JP Duminy and Wayne Parnell, all of whom make this a team to be feared.

Recent Form: South Africa head into the tournament on the back of a 4-1 win over West Indies at home in a bilateral series in January, during which de Villiers scored the record-breaking century. In November last year, it was at the wrong end of a 4-1 scoreline against Australia, although the tour did serve its primary purpose of acclimatising to Australian conditions.



Star Player: AB de Villiers
It is impossible not to keep an eye trained on de Villiers – he is everything you would want in a cricketer. He is the highest-ranked ODI batsman – he is arguably the best in the craft in world cricket at the moment – with a batting style that is unorthodox and beautiful all at once. He is known to twist himself into positions that seemingly make every delivery playable.

Furthermore, he has an eye for the boundary, as was evidenced during his record century against West Indies – off a total of 25 boundaries, 16 were sixes. He is also a wicketkeeper and an outstanding outfielder, a livewire. All in all, he is an entertainer, and fireworks are promised from him in the coming weeks.



One to Watch: Quinton de Kock
At 22, Quinton de Kock has already played 36 ODIs and 20 Twenty20 Internationals. He has six centuries and four half-centuries in ODIs, with a fine average of 42.45. He is an aggressive batsman, adept at scoring on both sides of the wicket, while behind the stumps, he is quick and agile and owns a safe pair of hands.

He is part of South Africa’s preferred opening pair, along with Amla, making for a crucial left-right combination. In December, de Kock suffered an ankle ligament tear during the Test series against West Indies, and was out for a month. However, he returned to play the fifth ODI of the series, and showed form during the World Cup warm-up match against Sri Lanka, scoring a 55-ball 66. Time and again, youngsters shine brightest at the big stage. Don’t be surprised if de Kock takes this tournament by the scruff of its neck.



Key Facts

Dale Steyn’s big hobby is fishing, and he is passionate about wildlife conservation and the environment.

AB de Villiers is known to play rugby, tennis and golf quite well. His nicknames include AB, Mr. 360 and ABD.

Hashim Amla has a brother, Ahmed Amla who used to play as a batsman for the Dolphins before retiring in 2013.

Morne Morkel belongs to a cricketing family, with father Albert, and brothers Malan and Albie all appearing at different levels. Albie has even taken the field along with Morne for South Africa.

Key Match: South Africa v India, Melbourne Cricket Ground, Melbourne, February 22
The marquee clash of the group. India is ranked No. 2 in the ICC ODI rankings, while South Africa is right below at No. 3. Both teams possess copious batting might, meaning the contest could be decided by the bowlers, in which case South Africa can be said to be better placed with its pacemen. The winner will give itself a firm foothold in the group, and the result could have far-reaching consequences in terms of who finishes where – something crucial heading into the quarterfinals.

Quotes

“When you’ve got (Dale) Steyn, (Vernon) Philander and (Morne) Morkel, I’m sure they would make an impact. Put on top of that the batting prowess of (Hashim) Amla and (AB) de Villiers – they would be in the top three in the ODI rankings. This would be a chance as good as any.” – Shaun Pollock, former South Africa seamer, to Wisden India.

“I want bowling line-ups to look at our batting lineup and think we are not going to get through there. We are building up confidence in that middle order." – AB De Villiers, South Africa captain

Legend’s Prediction: Scott Styris - South Africa: Semi-Final

“South Africa are another team who plays well on the bouncier pitches that are likely to be a feature of this tournament. They have an impressive unit from 1-11 and can beat anyone on their day. The pace bowling is fearsome and any top order with Amla, AB De Villiers and Du Plessis needs to be respected. The 'choke' term will be thrown around the further the tournament goes and I cant fully back them until they prove they can get over this hurdle.”

Squad: AB de Villiers (capt), Hashim Amla, Kyle Abbott, Farhaan Behardien, Quinton de Kock (wk), JP Duminy, Faf du Plessis, Imran Tahir, David Miller, Morne Morkel, Wayne Parnell, Aaron Phangiso, Vernon Philander, Rilee Rossouw, Dale Steyn.

Fixtures
Feb 15: v Zimbabwe, Seddon Park, Hamilton
Feb 22: v India, Melbourne Cricket Ground, Melbourne
Feb 27: v West Indies, Sydney Cricket Ground, Sydney
March 03: v Ireland, Manuka Oval, Canberra
March 07: v Pakistan, Eden Park, Auckland
March 12: v United Arab Emirates, Westpac Stadium, Wellington