South Africa’s recent win over New Zealand indicates two facts. First – Venues doesn’t matter anymore; second – they have everything set right as far as the squad is concerned.
Over the years, South Africa has carried a reputation which no other team in the cricket world has ever carried with so much consistency. It’s the ‘dark horses’ tag. Every time there’s an ICC tournament, they come up with their own element of surprise. But, as the Champions Trophy 2017 approaches, scenarios seem to have completely changed. They are more threatening than ever.
The 3-2 win over New Zealand clearly reflects that they are no longer the team that would flunk at crucial situations. The setup which they have currently looks like a lot of ‘pressure proof’ cricketers. It’s almost evident and the skipper believes in the same. Their greatest weakness in a multi-nation event has been the inability to survive in a tense situation.
A day before the final of the series, de Villiers confidently felt that the either one of the out of form pair of JP Duminy and David Miller would fire. As it turned out, the latter rose up to the occasion and struck a fine half-century to help his team chase a target of 150 runs to finish on a high note.
Strange yet true, not many considered them as the ‘favourites’ in major tournament. The chokers tag has haunted them badly and ensured that they were never taken seriously by a majority cricket fans despite all the respect they commanded for being a tough competitor. The ritual came to an end in the 2015 Cricket World Cup when they successfully overcame the jinx and advanced to the semi-final with a win over Sri Lanka.
That was just a mere beginning of the seven consecutive bilateral series wins which they registered post the Cricket World Cup 2015. The only loss came in that time frame came at the hand of Australia in the Tri-series final. And, statistically, five of those series wins were at home while the other two came against in the backyard of strong oppositions India and New Zealand.
As we always do when analysing, the focus rests on the two away wins they secured. The ODI triumph in India was more of a soothing balm on the wound of the humiliating test loss at the hands of the hosts. But, the five-match series went down the line and remained tied 2-2. Many felt their cookie will crumble, but it didn’t happen. They won it 3-2 as a dominant force with a blistering show in the series-deciding final in Mumbai.
They were in a similar situation some days back against New Zealand as well. It was a neck to neck fought series and the dust eventually settled at 2-2 before the fifth and the final rubber at Auckland. They once again emerged jubilant in a commanding fashion. These two series wins aptly explain why expecting them to ‘choke’ would be a bad idea. They have successfully ticked the column which read- Escape with victories in high-pressure games.
Talking of the team set up, the emergence of all-rounders like Dwaine Pretorius and Andile Phelukwayo adds great firepower to a team set compete in the seaming conditions of England. The presence of names like Wayne Parnell, Chris Morris, Kagiso Rabada and Quinton de Kock make the team really tough.
Just like AB de Villiers spoke of an unfinished task In New Zealand that they needed to finish ahead of the series, the Proteas obviously have a similar unfinished task ahead of the Champions Trophy – which is to win an ICC Tournament. And, maybe for the first time ever they enter an ICC tournament as an all and all favourites to win with strong chances of making the prediction a reality.