South Africa not taking it easy
South Africa are virtually assured of a place in the final of the Zimbabwean tri-series on Saturday, but their coach Russell Domingo suggested that there is unlikely to be any experimentation in the South African line-up in their final group game against Zimbabwe.
"It's an important game, and a couple of the guys have been rested like Dale [Steyn] and Morne [Morkel], who have only played two games in the last three or four weeks, so I don't think it's that important for them to rest," Domingo said. "And I think they will be having a couple of weeks off after this tournament. AB [de Villiers] also had one or two games off, so I think we'll be pretty much as close to our strongest team tomorrow."
The hosts have just four points to South Africa's nine, and with a net run rate of -1.665 Zimbabwe would need an improbably large victory on Thursday to even come close to threatening South Africa's standing on the points table. Of far more concern to South Africa will be their death bowling and their lengthy tail, which will include both Aaron Phangiso and Imran Tahir, with Morkel promoted to No. 9.
Both of these factors were exposed in their 62-run defeat to Australia on Tuesday. "We didn't play as well as we would have hoped to [against Australia]," admitted Domingo. "With the ball at the back end I didn't think we executed our plans well enough, and then I think our team at the moment with a little bit of a long tail is set up to have wickets in hand. With 15 overs left we were five or six wickets down, which is too many wickets down. Those are the areas that we really got wrong.
"Mitchell Marsh played an outstanding innings yesterday. He hit the ball magnificently well and he's a very difficult guy to bowl to, particularly when you're defending one short boundary on the on side. He's got to take a lot of credit, he batted really well, but the Australian batting line-up set the game up for him in those last 10 overs. With the way batting is going at the moment, I think wickets up front is the most important thing, that you can limit the damage at the back end of the innings."
Conditions in Zimbabwe, with pitches generally playing slow and low and aiding spinners, have necessitated South Africa's inclusion of both Phangiso and Tahir. With both men likely to play in the final, there will be added pressure on South Africa's middle order to provide the ballast to their innings, whether early wickets fall or not. While Faf du Plessis has scored two centuries in the tri-series, neither Hashim Amla nor Quinton de Kock have really fired and JP Duminy is averaging 25.50 while David Miller has scraped together just three runs in two innings.
"Going to the World Cup in Australia it's probably not going to be such a big thing, playing two spinners, but under these conditions two spinners seems to be a good option," suggested Domingo. "It does lengthen our tail quite a bit but that just gives our top order a bit more responsibility to perform."
Liam Brickhill is a freelance journalist based in Cape Town