SA better placed than India, SL - Domingo
South Africa believe they will arrive at the World Cup in better shape than at least two other big sides, one of whom is in their group. Russell Domingo identified India and Sri Lanka as two of the teams South Africa could have an edge over on the back of recent results.
"We'd be more confident than India and Sri Lanka at the moment. Sri Lanka were 4-1 down in the series in New Zealand and I don't think India have won a game in Australia in three months. Our confidence levels might be a little better than them," Domingo said. "New Zealand and Australia - their confidence levels are up and they are playing in conditions that they're used to. So are we. We beat New Zealand in New Zealand so we know we can do that. We ran Australia close in all five games as far as I can recall. There's not much to choose between these sides.""
Domingo's men will not have to think about Sri Lanka and New Zealand, teams they beat last year, or Australia who they lost to 4-1 - the series not as tight as Domingo suggests, including a 73-run defeat - until the knockouts but preying on a weary Indian side is within their sights early on. The teams will meet on February 22 in Melbourne in a fixture which could decide who tops the group. As was the case at the 2011 World Cup, it is expected to be a battle of the batsmen and as far as that department goes, Domingo has declared South Africa more than ready.
"We've batted really well for the last year and a bit. We've got close to 25 hundreds in our last 30 ODIs," he said. Those 30 matches date back to a home series against Pakistan in November 2013 and South Africa have had 23 centuries scored since then. Perhaps most telling is that more than a third of them - eight - have been racked up by one man: Hashim Amla.
In the period Domingo referenced, Amla has scored 1625 at an average of 65.00. He has also become the fastest batsman to 5,000 ODI runs and has established an opening partnership with Quinton de Kock that, although in its infancy, is already among South Africa's most successful pairings. Darren Sammy said a South Africa side with Amla in it is far more difficult for opposition attacks to dig into, but now Amla has the kind of back-up he may have lacked in the past.
South Africa's other centurions have included de Kock (five), AB de Villiers (four), Faf du Plessis (three), Rilee Rossouw (two) and David Miller (one) which speaks to a middle-order muscle that has previously been weak. Two of du Plessis' three hundreds came against Australia, a side he enjoys dominating, one of Rossouw's centuries was scored in the No.4 position where, if he plays at the World Cup, he may be used and Miller's milestone was achieved when the finisher moved up a place into No.5 and was allowed to bat through an innings.
All South Africa's major batsmen have proved that with enough time at the crease they can end an innings strongly, something which was a worry for them not too long ago. "The backend of our innings has been a concern with the bat, particularly with the series in Australia, but we seem to have come through. That's been an improvement," Domingo said.
Encouragingly the bowlers are starting to show the same thing. "It's common knowledge over the last period of time that we've really tried to work a lot on our backend bowling and that's why we brought a guy like Charl Langeveldt into the mix to try and save us 10 runs at the backend of an innings. It is such a difficult thing with only four fielders out of the ring. Many teams are struggling to deal with it. It's something we are trying to address."
Kyle Abbott is one of the few who has mastered the yorker while Wayne Parnell and Dale Steyn have both also done death-bowling duties. Parnell's consistency is still not guaranteed but he proved he is progressing in the two matches he played against West Indies. He maintained an economy rate of under five and picked up five wickets in the two games, including four at SuperSport Park.
"Wayne has really worked hard the last couple weeks and he is a talented cricketer," Domingo said. "He's now got 64 wickets in 40 games which is one and a half wickets a game which is really good. If you're doing that in one-day cricket, you are doing exceptionally well."
Parnell, like Rossouw, will likely operate as a reserve player but with both in good form, Domingo has reason to believe South Africa have ticked all the boxes as they head to the World Cup. They have played in the two countries the tournament will be hosted, against many of the teams they will meet there, under pressure and in the absence of it.
Now they want to replicate that at the tournament by playing in the same way they have been doing for the last 18 months. "Going into the World Cup it's going to be totally different to what we've experienced over the last few weeks in terms of the publicity and the deemed pressure it comes with. As a unit we're trying to play it down as much as we can. It's difficult to do but just see it as just another series and a great opportunity to play some good cricket," Domingo said.
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent