TELFORD VICE, Cape Town
SA have won more matches than they have lost against all three of their confirmed opponents in the group stage of the WT20, and only one of the teams they will face are ranked higher than Faf du Plessis’ men. But three of the four are former champions.
“England bat to No. 12 at the moment,” SA coach Russell Domingo said in running the rule over the teams that loom for his side in the first round.
“The West Indies have chased 240 against us (232, in fact, at the Wanderers last January) and they’ve previously won this competition, and Sri Lanka are the current defending champions.
“So there are no easy games. There are some high quality sides with matchwinners in each of those sides.”
Here, then, is what South Africans can expect from their team’s opponents (R – ranking, P – T20s played against SA, W – SA wins, L – SA losses):
England (R6 P11 W7 L3)
SA won both of the T20s they played against England last month. But they were taken to the last ball in the first of them and needed a spectacularly botched runout to get there. And let’s not forget that the second game in that series was the 15th England played on a three-month tour. Reasons to be wary of them? Several. But here are two of the most important – Ben and Stokes. Yes, he is two players in one.
“If you slip up like some teams have slipped up against what you perceive to be smaller nations that can be the end of your World Cup,” Domingo said. Damn straight.
West Indies (R2 P9 W6 L3)
Chris Gayle, if his troublesome 36-year-old back holds up and he isn’t derailed by his own misogyny, can beat any team by himself with one hand tangled in his dreadlocks. The Windies have shown a knack for rising above whatever problems they bring to tournaments – no West Indian tour is complete without a pay dispute – and SA have been on the receiving end of this tendency in the past. But this time, with neither Sunil Narine nor Kieron Pollard in the mix, their bowling is as thin as Curtly Ambrose.
Sri Lanka (R8 P5 W3 L2)
If Stokes and Gayle are paid up members of the Scary XI, Lasith Malinga is the captain. Could be the sidewinder slash of his bowling arm as he delivers. Could be his uncanny ability to send down yorkers on tap. Could be the mad hair. Whatever – the man is a menace. But, with Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene having retired, the Lankans’ batting looks less than lethal.