Proteas won’t be taking US for granted as Super Eights kick off

18 June 2024 - 17:10
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Reeza Hendricks says the mood among the Proteas' batters remains positive.
Reeza Hendricks says the mood among the Proteas' batters remains positive.
Image: Rogan Ward/Reuters

Ahead of a demanding week of Super Eight fixtures the primary question for the Proteas is: can their batting achieve similar levels of excellence and consistency as their bowling? 

If the batters can do that, then a semifinal spot should be secured. It’s been a difficult first half of the T20 World Cup for the batters, particularly those who have played in New York and St Vincent, where all of South Africa’s group matches took place. 

The US will be the first of the Proteas opponents in the Super Eights in Antigua on Wednesday (4.30pm SA time).

“It was easier for the bowlers, because the wickets were seamer friendly. It’s not ideal for T20 cricket but as fast bowlers you have to nail your lines and lengths and be consistent,” said Ottneil Baartman, one of the Proteas' outstanding performers in the tournament. 

For Reeza Hendricks and the batters, it’s been challenging. “We would have loved to score more runs. You want to score runs and then you come onto the wickets we are playing on ... it can be frustrating. That’s the nature of the pitches, so in some ways we have to be OK with it,” said Hendricks. 

While they won all four of their group matches — three on seamer friendly tracks in a temporary facility in New York and the other on a spinners' paradise at Arnos Vale in St Vincent — the Proteas have yet to score more than 120 in an innings. On two occasions they were chasing, but in the matches where they set targets, they failed on both occasions to properly use the base they had provided for themselves. 

“It’s been a good four games for the team. It didn’t always go according to plan, but at the end of the day we didn’t play our best cricket but still got over the line,” said Baartman.

He has played a leading role in the defence of modest totals, against Bangladesh and then Nepal. On the first occasion, he conceded seven runs in the penultimate over, leaving Keshav Maharaj to defend 11 runs in New York and against Nepal, with eight runs to work with, he made sure that South Africa squeaked home by one run. 

“I remember from way back, speaking to my coaches in high school and at the academy and their motto was, ‘the one that is the calmest in a particular situation is the one that comes out on top.’ I just focus on staying calm, I’ve been in these situations before ... there is pressure, but if I execute there is nothing more that I can do. Just don’t show fear, or show that the batter is on top. Those are the small margins in a game.”

For Hendricks, whose 43 against Nepal is the highest score by a Proteas top order batter in the tournament, it is important that he, Quinton de Kock and Aiden Markram in particular show similar traits as their bowlers. “The chats remain positive; we are trying to find ways to deal with it to get runs on the board. The spirits are OK.”

Hendricks said despite co-hosts the US's minnow status as a cricket nation, the South Africans would not be looking past the Eagles. 

“This is not the stage to take any team lightly. They did well to qualify out of the group. We are approaching them like any other team we play against.”

After getting the tournament off to a thunderous start against neighbours Canada, the US then stunned Pakistan, winning in a Super Over before scaring the powerhouse India team in New York. 

In Andries Gous and Shadley van Schalkwyk, the US have players familiar with South Africa. Both were teammates of Hendricks and Baartman at Free State, and Van Schalkwyk and Hendricks remain close friends.

“We had dinner the other night, and we were saying that we never thought that the day would come where we would face each other on opposing national teams. I did tell him that I wondered if he would sing the national anthems of South Africa and the US.”

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