Experienced core gives South Africa hope of knockouts

Overview

South Africa continue to tread water between the top tier of T20I teams and the more middling performers and this tournament could be used as a yardstick to measure their progress. On paper, they have all the ingredients of a strong T20I outfit: big-hitters like Laura Wolvaardt and innings builders like Mignon du Preez, fast-bowlers like Shabnim Ismail and consistent containers like Masabata Klaas and they even have a mystery spinner in Suné Luus. But at this event, their level of skill will be secondary to their ability to deal with pressure, and they should now have the experience to handle it well. Six of the 15-member squad have been on the international stage for more than 10 years and four others for more than five. The rest of the group form a strong succession line which bodes well for this competition and they will want the results to reflect that.

Squad

Dané van Niekerk (capt), Chloe Tryon, Trisha Chetty, Shabnim Ismail, Marizanne Kapp, Ayabonga Khaka, Masabata Klaas, Nadine de Klerk, Lizelle Lee, Suné Luus, Nonkululeko Mlaba, Mignon du Preez, Tumi Sekhukhune, Nondumiso Shangase, Laura Wolvaardt

Group fixtures

February 23: England, WACA

February 28: Thailand, Canberra

March 1: Pakistan, Sydney Showground

March 3: West Indies, Sydney Showground

T20 World Cup history

South Africa have made first-round exits in all but one of the six previous editions of the tournament. They reached the 2014 semi-final in Dhaka, where they lost to England. Notably, they did not win a match in the first two tournaments they attended, and have only been victorious in eight of 23 T20 World Cup matches, a winning percentage of just over a third.

Form guide

Series wins over Sri Lanka and Pakistan in the six months after the last T20 World Cup demonstrated the team’s ability to bounce back but defeats to India and, most recently, New Zealand highlighted the gulf between the top teams and the rest.

Key players

It’s difficult to look past South Africa’s all-time highest T20 run-scorer Dané van Niekerk and their leading wicket-taker in the format, Shabnim Ismail when highlighting players who the team will rely on, but they will need other contributors. Opener Lizelle Lee will go into the tournament with high expectations after finishing fifth on the Women’s Big Bash League run-charts, , which includes a century and four fifties for the Melbourne Stars, while allrounder Suné Luus‘ legspin could prove an x-factor. Luus took 6 for 45 against New Zealand in their recent ODI Hamilton carried South Africa to a series sweep.

What would be a success at the tournament?

South Africa are targeting the 2021 50-over World Cup for glory so they may be willing to settle for something less in the event. The ICC’s rankings puts them sixth, which suggests that getting out of the group, which includes higher-ranked England and West Indies, will be tough but there’s a powerful motivation for them to punch above their weight. The coaching staff’s contracts end in April and a top-four finish would be a long way to seeing them retained.

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