The Proteas will give their ‘World Cup’ XV another go in the first T20I against Sri Lanka at Newlands, writes KHALID MOHIDIN.
For the first T20I, the Proteas have picked what seems to be their favourite XV. This is the squad that approximates their best ODI XV and may be the closest squad to what seems to be their chosen World Cup XV.
Faf du Plessis said in his press conference on Saturday that the brains trust are ‘98-99% sure’ of their World Cup XV, but there will be an opportunity for that ‘one or two per cent [for] guys who are really red-hot or striking good form.
With Hashim Amla not available for selection for this T20I series as he is on compassionate leave due to his father falling ill, there are still opportunities for players to put their name in the selection hat.
When Ottis Gibson was asked whether the Proteas would pick their World Cup XV based on form or reputation, he mentioned that he would like form to take priority, with a ‘wildcard’ pick still on the table based on performances in the T20I series against Sri Lanka.
‘First and foremost, you’d want to pick on form,’ said Gibson on Tuesday. ‘But if there’s no form to go with then you have to look at reputation, I guess.
‘That’s something we will have to look at. Obviously, with regard to Hash [Hashim Amla], he hasn’t played any cricket in a long time because of his family situation, so when we sit down to discuss a team that will certainly be one of the things we will have to consider.’
After the T20I series, a decision will be made on the final XV for the World Cup.
The fifth and final ODI at Newlands didn’t go as planned for Du Plessis when his side missed out on the opportunity to chase down the 226-run target set by Sri Lanka, as a broken floodlight brought the match to a premature end.
The first T20I at Newlands will give the Proteas another chance to let their batsmen loose and give those who have not had the chance to express themselves (everyone other than Du Plessis and Quinton de Kock) an opportunity to play with freedom and aggression.
Du Plessis made it clear that the Proteas’ game plan will be centralised around their bowling attack, so expect ruthless aggression from the Proteas seamers.
The Sri Lankans will aim to dish out some punishment in the T20I series after being completely dominated in the ODIs. Their batsmen seem to be better suited to the shortest format with explosive players such as Kusal Mendis, Thusal Perera and Niroshan Dickwella at their disposal.
Players to Watch
Reeza Hendricks and Aiden Markram are competing for one spot in the Proteas ODI squad. They are both gunning for the backup opener position to Amla, who is expected to be first-choice opener. The T20I series will be their last chance to prove themselves.
Dickwella needs to perform. He was dropped in the last two games for Upul Tharanga, but should he get a chance in a format that suits his style of play, he could win back the trust of the selectors.
Proteas XI (probable):
1) Quinton de Kock
2) Aiden Markram
3) Reeza Hendricks
4) Faf du Plessis (c)
5) Rassie van der Dussen/David Miller
6) JP Duminy
7) Andile Phehlukwayo
8) Dale Steyn
9) Kagiso Rabada
10) Anrich Nortje
11) Imran Tahir
Sri Lanka XI (probable):
1) Niroshan Dickwella
2) Avishka Fernando
3) Sadeera Samarawickrama
4) Kusal Mendis
5) Angelo Perera
6) Dhananjaya de Silva
7) Thisara Perera
8) Lasith Malinga (c)
9) Akila Dananjaya
10) Suranga Lakmal
11) Isuru Udana
Photo: Isuru Sameera Peiris/Gallo Images