CRICKET NEWS - Proteas coach Ottis Gibson said on Tuesday that he is pleased his team will start their World Cup campaign against hosts and world number one’s England at The Oval on Thursday because “they will show us exactly where we are”.
“Playing against the number one team, that’s the best way to start because they will give us a real sense of where we are, they will show us exactly where we are. But it’s just one game and one shouldn’t read too much into it.
"It’s obviously still a big game, but if we don’t win then it won’t really matter. We will try everything to win, obviously, because it’s our first opportunity to get some momentum.
“But in the last five World Cups, how many times has the number one ranked team won? [not since Australia’s 2003 triumph in South Africa] So you don’t have to be number one to win the tournament and even if you win the World Cup, you don’t necessarily go to number one. So not being number one is not a big issue for us,” Gibson, who is a former England bowling coach, said at The Oval on Tuesday.
What does count in South Africa’s favour though is that they have players coming into the tournament in fine form. Quinton de Kock (3rd) and Faf du Plessis (18th) were both among the top-20 run-scorers in this year’s IPL, Imran Tahir and Kagiso Rabada were the leading wicket-takers, while even Chris Morris was 15th and was the second most economical bowler in the death overs behind Indian sensation Jasprit Bumrah. Dale Steyn finished ninth in the averages.
For Gibson, the challenge is now the co-ordination of all those stars into a winning 50-overs outfit.
“The difference between T20 and 50-overs cricket is vast, especially in terms of time on your feet and having to bat really well against the new ball. But in the 24 hours before our first game, we’ll just be chilling out and relaxed. We’ll have a couple of tactical meetings to plan for England, but the World Cup brings its own pressure so we’re just handling it like it’s just another cricket match.
“We want to play to our strengths and probably be a bit more expansive than we’ve seen normally from South African teams.
"We’re trying to go out of the bubble and be a bit more positive and aggressive. If we stick to what we believe, then we will be in the conversation. But we don’t have to be there now, we want to be there in five weeks time,” Gibson said.