Rain has given Proteas time for reflection

Due to the rain that has blanketed the south-west of England, the Proteas have spent much of the last week in conversations and they now have super-clarity over what they need to do to resuscitate their World Cup campaign against Afghanistan in Cardiff on Saturday, according to the captain, Faf du Plessis.

Having played three games in the first week, the vagaries of the World Cup schedule and the weather have seen South Africa play just 7.3 overs of cricket in the last nine days.

It has been a frustrating period for the Proteas, but Du Plessis said it has also provided valuable time to work on their head-space, which is absolutely crucial if they are to turn around this desperate campaign.

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“Week One was a bad start, but that’s done now and we have to make sure all our energy and focus is on the now, on what’s coming up. If we carry those ghosts with us then it’s going to be tough to get out of the hole we’re in. The rain has given more time to check in with the players, to make sure they’re all on the right path mentally. If we keep looking back we’re not going to achieve what we want to.

“In an ideal world we would have liked more practice but for us to play better is more about the conversations we need to have to make sure we’re mentally strong. In the first week our intensity was down which is just not good enough, that’s not the way we want to play. We have to make sure that’s up against Afghanistan. We are now super-clear, we have real purpose and there’s no space for mistakes,” Du Plessis said at the Sophia Gardens stadium on Friday.

Lungi Ngidi seems unlikely to be risked against Afghanistan as his hamstring strain has proven trickier to clear than expected, meaning South Africa could well field the same XI that was named for the West Indies match.

Afghanistan’s chief weapon is a couple of world-class spinners, but the dimensions of Sophia Gardens will reduce their effectiveness to an extent.

“You have to consider that we’ve had a lot of rain and the pitch has been under covers, and the boundaries are short straight but big square. But it’s clear you can’t call any teams at the World Cup minnows anymore and Afghanistan have the players with the ability to change a game. Rashid Khan obviously stands out, he’s probably the best T20 leggie in the world.

“From a facing spin point of view, you generally want to attack them straight so they will probably drag their length back tomorrow which takes some of their weaponry away, which means you can score more naturally. It looks like a green surface that will move around a bit, so it will be almost like a Test match. The seamers will probably want to make sure the batsmen are hitting square as well, but there’s no point in just bowling short,” Du Plessis said.

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