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June 23, 2007
South Africa take the field for the first time since their World Cup semi-final drubbing, at the hands of Australia, in the laid-back surroundings of Stormont on Sunday. On paper the match against a depleted Ireland side is the ideal way to ease into their short one-day tour of the Emerald Isle, but they would be well advised not take anything for granted.
The two sides met twice in the Caribbean. The game that mattered - in the Super Eights - comfortably went South Africa's way with a seven-wicket victory but, a few weeks earlier, they'd been jolted into life during their opening warm-up match in Trinidad as Ireland reduced them to 91 for 8.
South Africa recovered to win that match but for their first outing in more than two months, with cool, overcast conditions, in unfamiliar surroundings, they will have to be on their guard. One advantage for them is that key players have tasted recent action. Andrew Hall, Charl Langeveldt and Andre Nel have been playing county cricket while Mark Boucher, AB de Villiers and Justin Kemp were involved in the Afro-Asia Cup.
However, there is a potential problem on the horizon with Boucher and Nel both suffering flu-like symptoms. They are on medication and a Cricket South Africa spokesman said they were hopeful of playing, but it may lead Mickey Arthur into having to try a few of the five new (or recalled) faces in the squad.
If Boucher doesn't recover Morne van Wyk would take the wicketkeeping gloves. His only previous one-day international was in the 2003 Natwest Series final against England, at Lord's, when South Africa were thrashed by seven wickets. The absence of Nel wouldn't be felt too strongly, as the squad is packed with seam options, and a possible debut is on the cards for allrounder Vernon Philander along with a one-day return for Dale Steyn following his outstanding form for Warwickshire.
The other interesting bowling option for the South Africans to consider is the offspin of Thandi Tshabalala. Although conditions at Stormont wouldn't initially cry out in favour of the spinners, Piyush Chawla was very effective against Ireland. For teams brought up on a diet of medium pace seam and swing having a slow-bowling option provides a different test.
Ireland will want to put in an improved display after their nine-wicket defeat against India. Trent Johnston thought his side had put a decent total on the board but were let down by some loose bowling. The South African batting order is going to be another stiff challenge for his young attack.
After their final training session the South Africans opted not to come down to the Civil Service Ground and give their opponents the once over. Instead, they headed off to watch the Springboks take on the All Blacks in the Tri-Nations rugby. The cricket team's task on Sunday should be much easier.
South Africa (from) Jacques Kallis (capt), Mark Boucher, AB de Villiers, JP Duminy, Herschelle Gibbs, Andrew Hall, Justin Kemp, Charl Langeveldt, Andre Nel, Makhaya Ntini, Vernon Philander, Dale Steyn, Thandi Tshabalala, Morne van Wyk
Ireland (from) Trent Johnston (capt), Kenny Carroll, Alex Cusack, Thinus Fourie, Dominick Joyce, Gary Kidd, Kyle McCallan, Kevin O' Brien, Niall O' Brien, William Porterfield, Roger Whelan, Andrew White,Gary Wilson
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