South Africa play their final pool match against the UAE in Wellington on Thursday. We pick six things to look out for during the game.
1. SA should bring in Phangiso, who can deny UAE’s best batsman
The time is right for South Africa to rotate the remainder of the squad, leaving Phangiso ready for just a 15th ODI cap in more than two years since his January 2013 debut. Phangiso might play alongside Imran Tahir, if the Proteas opt for two specialist slow bowlers, but will probably go it alone at a venue that has seen just 33.1 overs of spin – out of 143 – in the 2015 World Cup so far. He will face a particularly poignant challenge against Shaiman Anwar, who has proven a veritable revelation for the United Arab Emirates this month, but has consistently been dismissed by quality spin. Hailed as ‘Sir Viv Richards’ by his teammates, the 35-year-old has more runs than David Miller, Brendon McCullum and Virat Kohli this tournament – and was a mere 25 away from entering the top five at the time of writing.
2. Confidence boost beckons for De Kock against lowly opposition
De Kock’s paucity of form in Australia and New Zealand has been well documented, but this is the opportunity to right the wrongs of a mere 27 runs in five innings. Many have suggested a big contribution against opposition as weak as the UAE will prove largely insignificant, but that says more for presumption than reality. Whether he is retained as an opening batsman or pushed down the order, the youngster will be gifted a golden opportunity to gather some confidence amid this uninspiring patch. Left-arm seamer Manjula Guruge, buoyed by an ODI career-best four for 56 against Pakistan a week ago, could add to the South African’s woe – or open the floodgates for a return to favour.
3. An umpteenth second chance for Parnell to redeem himself, somewhat
Parnell probably wouldn’t feature if South Africa’s final group match wasn’t against a non-Test playing nation, or if victory wasn’t all but assured before the first ball was bowled. This is, however, another chance to prove his worth amid a near insurmountable slew of criticism. The inability for the top- through middle-order to succeed – and the lack of a feasible fifth bowling option in defeat to Pakistan – acknowledged a glaring imbalance in the XI. Parnell’s return should even the scales on paper – and here’s hoping he gets it right on the field too. Amjad Javed, a nagging first-change bowler and aspiring all-rounder, will be eager to trouble a rival heavily under the pump with both bat and ball.
4. Morkel to fight off Abbott, who is breathing down his neck
One of the tallest versus one of the oldest, the 1.96-metre Morkel and 43-year-old Khurram Khan. The veteran batsman has effectively been the glue that has held a potentially fragile middle order together this month, while Morkel has loped to the helm of South Africa’s 2015 World Cup wicket-taking charts. Khurram, like the bulk of the UAE’s batsmen, has succumbed to the hook and pull on fast pitches blessed with plenty of carry in Australia and New Zealand. Westpac Stadium in Wellington isn’t likely to prove much different, ensuring Morkel’s height – and the awkward angles and trajectories he generates – will again be a serious threat. The square boundaries, though, are somewhat smaller than most – so the pace might work against the fast bowler, which in turn will highlight Kyle Abbott as his direct competition.
5. A great chance for Philander to get back in the groove
Among all the Indian- and Pakistan-born cricketers lining the UAE squad, exists a lone Sri Lankan in opening batsman Andri Berenger. He enjoyed a reasonably decent stretch of form in the three months leading into the World Cup, but has since fallen prey to his own impatience by chasing big shots at the expense of a sound start. Philander, who was due to return against Pakistan but pulled up lame at the last minute, has been declared ’90 percent fit’ by Allan Donald and should get a game ahead of Abbott this time around. He is exactly the type of bowler to test the batsman’s restlessness. His characteristic ‘fourth stump’ line needs match practice ahead of substantially stronger challenges for South Africa in the quarter-finals and, hopefully, beyond.
6. Deja vu for Donald and Kirsten
South Africa and UAE have met on one previous occasion, at the 1996 World Cup in Rawalpindi, where Gary Kirsten amassed a record-breaking 188 not out and Allan Donald struck a helmet-less Sultan Zirwani on the head with a bouncer. Almost two decades later, Kirsten and Donald are still around, but as part of the coaching staff. Images of Kirsten going over long-on and through extra cover for boundary after boundary – and Donald grimacing as Zirwani is near floored are etched in memory. Kirsten’s record, of course, has since been overhauled by double-centurion Chris Gayle against Zimbabwe earlier in the 2015 tournament.