TELFORD VICE, Cape Town
WHEN is an Irish clover a potential banana peel? When it’s tossed onto the pitch by a team who, in the words of their captain, are “not here to make up the numbers – we’re here to try and win games of cricket”.
That captain is William Porterfield, who will lead Ireland in a one-day international against South Africa in Benoni on Sunday. The Irish will be back in Benoni on Tuesday to play Australia.
“Having the opportunity to play South Africa in their own backyard is what we’ve been building towards,” Porterfield said.
“And then to play the world champions here, away from home and in different conditions, is what we’re after.
“We’ve got to keep improving and keep putting in performances to merit the games that we get.”
South Africa have played 22 ODIs since the 2015 World Cup. Ireland? Just 14, two of them abandoned and another washed out.
That disparity didn’t make Faf du Plessis, who will lead South Africa on Sunday and perhaps in the five ODIs that will follow against Australia should AB de Villiers’ eina elbow not heal in time, breathe any easier.
“When you play a small nation you’ve got everything to lose and they’ve got everything to gain,” Du Plessis said. “They can play the perfect match and if you make a couple of mistakes they beat you.
“Treat them with the same amount of respect you would have for Australia.
“In saying that Australia are the No. 1 team in the world so they will be a different battle, and this – especially for the guys who haven’t played one-day cricket for a while – will be a nice way to get back into white-ball cricket.”
Temba Bavuma will make his debut in the format, and Andile Phehlukwayo and Dwaine Pretorius could both earn their first international caps.
“It’s important that if you bring them into a squad like this there’s an opportunity to play them,” Du Plessis said.
“Temba will open the batting. He’s done really well in test cricket and I think he’ll be the first guy to say that his one-day record is not what he wants it to be.”
Phehlukwayo and Pretorius could “show they are the kind of allrounders this team can look to for the future”.
None of which will fuss Porterfield, who said: “It’s going to be strong South African team that takes to the park but we’ve proved before that, no matter where we’ve gone, we win games of cricket.”
Even in Benoni, where Ireland World Cup qualifiers against Scotland and Canada in 2009.
Those games were decent contests between equals.
This shouldn’t be, but let’s not count our bananas before we peel them.