Proteas captain Faf du Plessis is drawing confidence from the green pitch and short straight boundaries at Sophia Gardens, and believes the ground may aid his beleaguered team, writes DANIEL GALLAN in Cardiff.
Rain has settled over Cardiff for much of the week, which has meant the covers have stayed on, incubating the wicket and encouraging the growth of grass. This means that spinners are less likely to find turn, which will suit the South Africans and prove a disadvantage to Afghanistan.
‘They have some excellent spinners, and Rashid Khan’s probably the best leg-spinner in the world,’ Du Plessis said. ‘Last time we played here [in a warm-up game against Sri Lanka in May] the ball didn’t turn. If Afghanistan get a slow and turning wicket they can be as dangerous as the fast bowlers of West Indies or Australia. Hopefully it doesn’t assist them too much.’
The dimensions of the ground swing the pendulum further in South Africa’s favour. Behind the bowler’s head, the perimeter is only 60m away, compared with almost 80m in the corners at cow corner or deep extra cover.
This means that batters can attack spinners, and trust that they can hit down the ground with confidence, especially when it is not expected to turn.
‘What happens with a ground like this, is spinners don’t want to pitch it up and they tend to drag their length back,’ Du Plessis explained. ‘But that means that they take away part of their natural strength and then you can attack them more.’
Du Plessis admitted that there had been discussions to play an all-pace attack, but said he still backed his veteran leg-spinner, Imran Tahir, to contribute.
The side will likely remain unchanged from that selected for the washed-out game against the West Indies. Lungi Ngidi has yet to fully recover from a hamstring injury and will likely not be risked against Afghanistan on a wet outfield.
Du Plessis also intimated that Aiden Markram will be given at least one more game to impress. The 24-year-old has looked in good touch in patches, but has only registered scores of 5, 45 and 11 in three innings in the tournament.