Searching test awaits SA after Steyn ruled out of World Cup
South Africa’s World Cup campaign lurched from bad to worse on Tuesday when Dale Steyn was ruled out of the tournament.
That will only complicate their task of trying to get their first points on the board by beating India in Southampton on Wednesday.
Steyn’s shoulder injury took him out of the equation for his first two games‚ against England and Bangladesh‚ which were both lost.
Beuran Hendricks‚ who took a wicket and conceded a respectably low 81 runs in the 16 overs he bowled in South Africa’s one-day series against Pakistan in January and claimed eight scalps in 11 overs in the T20 series that followed‚ is due to arrive on Wednesday as Steyn’s replacement.
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Steyn was able to be replaced in line with the rules because‚ despite the fact that he had arrived at the tournament with a shoulder issue sustained in the Indian Premier League (IPL)‚ his latest injury had been deemed a new problem.
Hashim Amla missed the second match having been hit on the helmet by England’s Jofra Archer‚ and Lungi Ngidi was halted by a hamstring injury after bowling four overs against Bangladesh.
Amla has been cleared to play on Wednesday but Ngidi will be out for up to 10 days.
“We haven’t had one game where we’ve had our strongest XI on the field yet‚” Faf du Plessis said.
“So that is challenging. But‚ unfortunately‚ you don’t get a pass for having injuries. You still have to make sure your squad is strong enough.
“You try and plan to have back-up plans for when you do have one or two injuries.”
India will be itching to get their campaign off to a flying start with a performance worthy of their status as second favourites behind the home side.
South Africa will need to address the batting problems that saw them dismissed for 207 by England‚ and the bowling issues that allowed Bangladesh to post 330/6 — their record one-day total.
What with teams needing to win six of their nine games to be confident of reaching the semi-finals‚ a third loss would put South Africa’s backs against the wall.
It all adds up to the most searching test of Du Plessis’ leadership.
“I have to front up to it‚” Du Plessis said.
“I’m the captain of the team right now and players are looking for someone to lead them.
“So all I can do is try my absolute best to try and do that. Once again‚ that doesn’t mean [South Africa will get] results. I wish it did‚ because then it would be great.
“I’m trying to make sure I stay positive for the team. I stay strong and encourage other guys in the team‚ other leaders in the group to also stay strong.
“At no stage in the game can we as a senior player group look like we are down-and-out. It is not an option for us.
“We are a very‚ very proud cricketing nation. So‚ no matter how bad it gets‚ or how good it gets‚ I will keep driving that.”
Amla could replace David Miller on Wednesday‚ if only to keep Aiden Markram in the side on the strength of his occasional off-spin.