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Boucher believes T20 World Cup conditions will be similar to the Caribbean

South Africa coach confident of team's showing after series win against West Indies

Firdose Moonda
Firdose Moonda
Mark Boucher believes South Africa are well equipped for conditions at the T20 World Cup  •  Gallo Images/Getty Images

Mark Boucher believes South Africa are well equipped for conditions at the T20 World Cup  •  Gallo Images/Getty Images

Conditions at the T20 World Cup in the UAE will be similar to what South Africa experienced in Grenada, according to coach Mark Boucher, who expects the tournament to be tough for batters but successful for spinners. Although it was always expected that the event, initially scheduled to be played in India but moved to the Emirates because of Covid-19 concerns, would present unfamiliar and challenging territory to South Africa, their 3-2 series-win in the West Indies has showed them what they need to do to be competitive.
"We are probably going to be playing in conditions like this in the UAE. The wickets after the IPL are going to be a bit dry. It's not the same as we're used to back in South Africa where you can go out and bash your way to 180 to 200 runs. You've got to be skillful here; you've got to be smart," Boucher said.
Scores at St George's were between 160 and 170 for each of the five T20Is, and the team batting first won four of them. Run-scoring became noticeably more difficult as the day went on, and even as each innings developed as a result of a softer ball on a drier pitch and heavier outfield, and thanks to bowlers who were able to take pace off the ball. Obed McCoy, Dwayne Bravo and Fabian Allen kept South Africa's finishers to under seven runs an over in the last five overs across the series, while Tabraiz Shamsi and George Linde frustrated West Indies' middle-order. Boucher expects that trend to continue into the T20 World Cup.
"If anything, it's going to go even further into subcontinent conditions, on the extreme side. They are playing the IPL there, there's not a lot of grounds and those wickets are going to be worn so scores will probably go even further down," he said. "It's going to be tough to bat on especially at the back end, like we saw here. We will have an idea of what scores are going to be by watching the IPL and then taking a look and assess how the wickets are playing during the beginning part of the World Cup. I suspect spinners will play a massive role."
That could mean South Africa approach the T20 World Cup with a team that looks more like the one that won the final match - which had five specialist batters, two allrounders, two quicks and two specialist spinners - than the one that won the second, which had only five bowling options and one allrounder. Whichever option they go for, Boucher recognised that they need to get the lower middle-order firing even if they won't be able to score at the same rate as they do at home.
David Miller, in particular, is out of form and scored just 52 runs in five innings. Though Boucher did not single him out, he indicated that he hopes the upcoming contest against Ireland will help to get Miller, and others, back to their best. "There are a couple of guys out of form but if you are winning series against a strong team with a couple of guys out of form, you must be doing something right," Boucher said. "We need to get some guys in form. Maybe there is an opportunity for us to get those guys in form so we can finish off innings better."
If South Africa can get that right, Boucher sees them being able to post slightly higher totals, which could be the key to success in the UAE. "If we can get all the guys firing on all cylinders, we've got an idea of what could be our strongest line-up and once that happens, then you end up finding an extra 15-20 runs which, in these conditions it becomes a very difficult total to face, especially when it's so dry," he said.
On the other hand, Boucher was largely satisfied with the way South Africa's attack adapted to the conditions and with new captain Temba Bavuma's use of his bowlers. "We've got to get guys playing a lot smarter and we saw that in our bowling," he said. "Our bowling throughout the whole series was fantastic and Temba has had a fantastic series managing the bowlers apart from one or two gambles that didn't pay off."
One that immediately comes to mind was using Aiden Markram to open the bowling in the fourth T20I for an over that cost 20 runs, but apart from that, Bavuma managed his attack well in mostly one-over spells throughout the series. He also inspired a revival in South Africa's fielding, where standards had slipped in the last few months.
Still, South Africa's series win was not what they may call a complete performance. There are still strategic questions for them to answer, especially if they are going to commit to an XI which could include as many as three frontline spinners. That would be a big, but ultimately necessary, departure from the norm for South Africa and this tour of West Indies showed them they can do it, successfully.

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent