T20 World Cup: Cricket ‘owes’ South Africa in ‘crucial moments’

Quinton de Kock at the T20 World Cup in 2021
South Africa were eliminated from last year’s T20 World Cup on net run-rate

Cricket “probably owes” South Africa at crucial moments as the side look to finally lift a major international trophy at the T20 World Cup in Australia, says batter Pieter Malan.

Malan believes the country can now break the barrier of nine appearances – for both the men and women – at the semi-final stages of T20 and 50-over tournaments.

“In a T20 tournament, there are so many things you need to go your way in crucial moments,” the 33-year-old told BBC Sport Africa.

“I feel like the game of cricket probably owes South Africa a few of those, so hopefully it comes right in this tournament.

“South Africa is too good a side not to have won a big trophy so hopefully that happens pretty soon.”

South Africa’s most galling semi-final exit came at the 1999 Cricket World Cup, when a final-over run-out meant they tied with Australia and were eliminated on head-to-head record.

The Proteas missed out on a T20 World Cup semi-final appearance last year when they were eliminated at the Super 12 stage despite finishing level on points in their group with England and eventual winners Australia.

They have avoided those two teams this year but do face India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and the Netherlands as well as Zimbabwe.

“I think they’re always in with a chance – that’s the thing with South Africa – it is always one of the top sides,” said Malan, the South Africa A captain who is not in the squad for Australia.

“It’s just a matter of getting across the line in those crucial moments and this might be the one.

“There are conditions [in Australia] that South Africa will be comfortable with. They’re in a good place and there’s a lot of exciting youngsters coming through.

“It’s just putting that together and hopefully they get over the line in this T20 World Cup.”

South Africa will hope the potentially destructive batting of Quinton de Kock and David Miller can deliver consistently, while Rilee Rossouw has made a positive return to the team and 22-year-old Tristan Stubbs has emerged as a top prospect.

Their highly regarded fast bowling attack offers them a real chance of success, with Marco Jansen added to a squad that already includes Indian Premier League regulars Kagiso Rabada and Lungi Ngidi.

“Australia will suit our fast bowlers,” said coach Mark Boucher. “We have got some good pace, some good bounce in our attack, so we need to keep the aggression there.”

Positive outlook despite double overlook

Pieter Malan
Pieter Malan’s international career amounts to three Test appearances despite impressive averages

Malan made his Test debut against England in Cape Town in 2020, top-scoring in the second innings with 84 as the tourists won by 189 runs.

Despite a first-class average of nearly 46, he has yet to add to the three caps he won in that series – although he captained South Africa A in a three-match series against India last December.

The Nelspruit-born right hander has also been overlooked by the T20 international side despite one century, 11 half-centuries and an average of 39.33 in the format.

Along with Test captain Dean Elgar and T20 captain Temba Bavuma, Malan also missed out on selection for the inaugural SA20 franchise competition in January but was pragmatic about the reasons.

“It comes down to analytics and what the teams think they need and what they can get,” he said.

“There are a lot of uncontrollables there and you can only control what you do the field.”

“I think it’s fantastic for South African cricket that guys are being put on show and they can hopefully show that there is a lot of talent in South Africa.”

The six-team SA20 tournament will begin on 23 January, with commissioner Graeme Smith, a former South Africa captain, saying the league is vital to the future of cricket in the country.

Malan appreciates T20 is challenging Test cricket for supremacy, and admits young players will be attracted to the shorter form by the money on offer in the SA20 and similar leagues around the world.

“This probably might just sit behind the IPL in terms of being the second biggest T20 in the world and it’s really exciting to have that in South Africa, so hopefully it will be a success,” Malan added.

“Test cricket is the pinnacle and that needs to remain, but there’s so much value in T20 cricket and for youngsters coming through it might be difficult for them to pick between the two.

“That’s going to be the challenge going forward. It’s definitely an interesting time to see where it leads.”

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