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Bavuma wants South Africa to add '5% more' for crucial England fixture

Bavuma also cognisant of SA's advantage of playing after Australia v West Indies

Firdose Moonda
Firdose Moonda
Victory against England is crucial for South Africa to have semi-final hopes  •  ICC via Getty

Victory against England is crucial for South Africa to have semi-final hopes  •  ICC via Getty

South Africa will look to "add an extra five per cent" in all their departments, as they seek to beat England for the first time in six T20Is and topple one of the tournament favourites in a bid for a semi-final spot.
"We want to play our best cricket tomorrow," Temba Bavuma, South Africa's captain said on the eve of the game. "It's just to find a way to add an extra five per cent in all our departments. It'll just be us trying to find a way to improve in every department. I think the bowling has been really good. The fielding, as well, has been really good. The batting, as well. But let's just find a way to just improve in every department of our game."
That is as much as this South African side can do against a side that has had the better of them, and most others, recently. England have only lost once in their last 10 T20Is. They've also won the last three T20I series against South Africa, dating back to 2017, which is about the time South Africa's decline began.
That year, they were booted out of the Champions Trophy early, lost a Test, ODI and T20I series in England and have been fairly inconsistent ever since. Though Bavuma was talking about more recent times when he said, "obviously the team has gone through a lot," it applies over several years and particularly in this tournament where issues of team culture and race were in the spotlight. "I think we've learnt a lot about each other. We've grown a lot as a team in finding ways to get through all the tough times that we've gone through collectively," Bavuma said.
And so, the match against England is an opportunity, albeit a very difficult one, to start proving the tide has properly turned. While South Africa have showed signs of improvements, with successful winter tours, and plucky performances in the tournament so far, they lack out-and-out superstars in the AB de Villiers mould. The closest candidates are Kagiso Rabada, who started this competition slowly, and Quinton de Kock, who has yet to make a significant contribution, but that doesn't bother Bavuma. "Every game we speak about going out and fighting it out as a team. We don't leave it to individuals," Bavuma said. "We don't rely on individual brilliance to bring it home for the team, but it's all about us as a team giving everything that we've got. Tomorrow it won't be any different. We'll still be showing the same character, the same fight that we've shown while in this tournament."
South Africa's muscle has come mostly in the field, with their bowlers undoubtedly their strongest suit. Their top-heavy and relatively slow-scoring line-up have just about kept their heads above water, which Bavuma backed as being good enough.
"Looking at the conditions, it's not free-flowing type of cricket. We've really, really had to craft as a batting unit," he said. "We've always spoken about being flexible as a batting team, as individuals, and looking at the players that we have in the team, I felt that I could do a role up front, but I could also do a role within the middle.
"We've had guy like Rassie van der Dussen go in earlier because we know if he has the opportunity to face a considerable amount of balls, he's a guy that can really put a bowling attack under pressure. You have a guy like Reeza Hendricks, as well, who's come off good recent form at the top of the order. So trying to utilise that form at its best. For me it's just playing the conditions really. We know within our batting side we need someone to kind of hold things on one end to allow all our big hitters, if I could say, to get into the game. But that's what we've seen has worked at this World Cup. That's not to say going forward that's going to be our strategy, but for now, that's what we feel is best."
Bavuma expects Sharjah to be slow and low, and hopes that South Africa can bat quicker than they did against Sri Lanka at the same venue, where they made hard work of chasing 143. "We knew that the wicket would be on the low side. With the batting, we did take it quite deep, and I guess the learning from that is I guess maybe we'll have to pull the trigger a bit earlier," he said.
Their scoring rate could be key if Australia beat West Indies and the semi-final berth will depend, not just on South Africa winning, but securing a higher net run-rate than Australia. "What's happening with Australia-West Indies, what helps us is that their game happens before our game, so we'll kind of get a better sense or understanding as to how we need to approach the England game," Bavuma said. "If Australia win, then it's going to come down to net run rate. We'll have an opportunity somewhere along our game to control our net run rate or alter our approach."
At the least, then, South Africa will take on England knowing if five percent more will be sufficient, or if they need even more than that.

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent