Preview - ICC Champions Trophy 2017 - South Africa.

Since the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015, South Africa have lost only a couple of bilateral ODI series (vs Bangladesh in 2015 and the ongoing series vs England), which throws light on their recent ODI form and is a testimony as to why they are the No. 1 ranked ODI team. They wouldn't have expected to be 0-2 down with a match to go in the existent series. However, they should be relieved that the drubbing has come in the series before the Champions Trophy and not in the Champions Trophy.
The Proteas won the inaugural edition of the Champions Trophy in 1998 (when it was known as the 1998 ICC KnockOut Trophy), which is till date their only major ICC event title. They lost in the semi-final to India in 2000 and 2002. Lost in the semi-final to West Indies in 2006 and then to England in 2013. If they get the permutation and combination of their all-rounders and bowlers right, this could well be the year for them.

Expected Playing Eleven

1) Quinton de Kock (wk) 2) Hashim Amla 3) Faf du Plessis 4) AB de Villiers (c) 5) JP Duminy 6) David Miller 7) Chris Morris 8) Andile Phehlukwayo 9) Kagiso Rabada 10) Morne Morkel 11) Imran Tahir

Specification

In 81 ODIs, de Kock has amassed 3,376 runs at an average of 43.84 and a strike rate of 95.20. In the past year, his returns in 24 matches have been 1,057 runs at an average of 45.95 and a strike rate of 104.03. The numbers depict the fact that he has been instrumental in South Africa's recent success. He is also fortunate enough to have a senior opening partner in Hashim Amla. The duo would hold the key for South Africa in this tournament as well.
Faf du Plessis, who has led the side multiple times in AB de Villiers' absence is another vital resource for the South Africa. In the last 12 months, du Plessis has scored 1,082 runs in 22 matches at an average of 60.11 and a strike rate of 92.55, higher than his career average of 43.76 and strike rate of 87.40. But his numbers in English conditions are not so overwhelming. In 11 matches, he has scored 229 runs at an average of 25.44. If he improves on his numbers in England, South Africa will comprise of a formidable top order.

de Kock will have to perform both in front of and
behind the wickets.

To support this fear inspiring top order will be one of the modern-day greats and the current No. 1 batsman, AB de Villiers. In JP Duminy and David Miller, South Africa have two dangerous batsmen in the middle order. Duminy's offbreaks are likely to come in handy for de Villiers. With an average of 39.01 and a strike rate of 103.97, Miller is a real threat down the order. In the last 12 months, the same numbers have increased to 69 and 122.27 respectively.
Chris Morris and Andile Phehlukwayo are two similar kinds of players. Players who can use the long handle in the slog overs and then bowl their full quota of 10 overs. Kagiso Rabada has been a revelation for South Africa since his debut. He is likely to cherish the English conditions. Morne Morkel will be playing an ODI after more than 11 months. Someone of his experience should not be sitting on the bench in the quest to play an all-rounder who will strengthen the batting order. In 108 ODIs, Morkel has 181 wickets under his belt at an average of 24.60 and a strike rate of 29.7. Last but not the least, the current No. 1 bowler, Imran Tahir, would want to deceive the opposition batsmen in the spin webs caused by his variations.

Bench Strength

Farhaan Bhardien has been travelling with the South African squad for quite sometime now. He would be hoping for more number of opportunities coming his way in this tournament. Wayne Parnell and Dwaine Pretorius add to the list of South Africa's fast bowling all-rounders. Both of them might also get a look-in as the tourney progresses. Keshav Maharaj must be high on confidence after making his ODI debut against England yesterday. He, too, would be looking for some chances coming his way.

Inaugural Match

03/06/2017 (Saturday) - Sri Lanka vs South Africa at The Oval, London.

Photo Credits - ESPN cricinfo.

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