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Alan Gardner in Chittagong
March 21, 2014
South Africa will conduct fitness tests on Dale Steyn and the captain, Faf du Plessis, ahead of their World T20 opener against Sri Lanka, with both players attempting to recover from hamstring injuries.
Du Plessis said they had been working hard on fitness and that they currently "seemed to be okay," but a final call would be taken on Saturday before the game. Du Plessis has been batting in the nets but still had some discomfort while running. Steyn bowled on Friday but at a little off top pace, ahead of a full-tilt session in the morning.
"It's been a pretty intense week for Dale and myself trying to make sure we are 100% ready for the game tomorrow," du Plessis said. "As of now we are still assessing, we both will do a fitness test tomorrow to see where we are. We seem to be okay, but we will have a look at it tomorrow to see how the hamstring is doing.
"Batting is 100% fine, I don't feel anything, but it's just when you are sprinting. Pace wise I am up to about 70%, hopefully we can crank that up to around 90-95 tomorrow."
Earlier in the week, du Plessis had been rated a "50-50 chance" and if his mobility is restricted, it would affect his ability in the field as well as running between the wickets. Steyn bowled just a couple of overs in a warm-up game against Bangladesh A on Tuesday but, if he is fit, could find the pitch in Chittagong more to his liking.
A surprising amount of pace and bounce has been on display in the qualifying matches played at the ground and the captains of South Africa, England and New Zealand all felt that spin would be less of a factor ahead of the opening matches in Group 1 of the Super 10 stage.
"It looks a really good wicket. I was pretty surprised," du Plessis said. "The grass I don't think will play too much of a role when it comes to sideways movement but I think it will be a good deck, lot of runs, so it is nice to see. For us, it's good to see that there is grass on the wicket."
South Africa will begin their campaign against the side ranked the best in the world in T20 and who recently picked up silverware at the Asia Cup. Sri Lanka are one of the favourites for the title due to their greater affinity for the conditions but du Plessis said his players could draw on their T20 series victory away from home last year.
"We toured Sri Lanka not too long ago and we beat them in T20s," du Plessis said. "The conditions there really suited their style of bowling. They have good spinners and it will be crucial how we play spin. Luckily the wicket doesn't seem like it has too much spin. But also they have got other danger bowlers, Lasith Malinga is a dangerous T20 bowler, they have other match-winners. It's about making sure on the day that you bring your best.
"Sri Lanka is a fantastic team, having said that we beat them and played really good cricket against them. So we are taking a huge amount of confidence from that. There has been a lot of talk about six or seven teams that can win this tournament, everything is going to count on how you play as a team. Hopefully we can start of tomorrow."
The issue of du Plessis' fitness will have an impact on the batting order but he said the team management was keen to continue with AB de Villiers down the order in a finishing role, particularly given his strength against spin. In du Plessis' absence, de Villiers came in at No. 3 against Bangladesh A, only to be dismissed for 4.
"From a team point of view, it's nice to know that if you have a good start you always have AB in the bank and he can come in and destroy any team on his day. If you lose him early on, you might see it as losing your best batsman. As a team we play better like that and certainly the guys batting in the top three have done that. They have been performing consistently since last year."
Alan Gardner is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets hereFeeds: Alan Gardner
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