When the Proteas front up against England in the first T20 at Newlands on November 27, one of the obvious concerns will be their level of match readiness.
It will be South Africa’s first international cricket since the coronavirus pandemic struck in March and while there have been two rounds of domestic four-day cricket over the past couple of weeks, the shift to the demands of T20 cricket might take some getting used to.
England, meanwhile, were playing white ball cricket against Australia as recently as September.
The good news for the Proteas, though, is that they had some of their trump cards competing against the best in the world at the Indian Premier League (IPL) for two months from September through to early November.
Often criticised as a tournament that sucks the life out of South Africa’s cricketers, the IPL this year has been a godsend for the Proteas. White ball captain Quinton de Kock was a key component in the Mumbai Indians lifting the trophy, but perhaps the most encouraging performances at the IPL from a South African perspective came in the form of Kagiso Rabada and Anrich Nortje, who played together for the Delhi Capitals and lost in the final to Mumbai.
Rabada (30) and Nortje (22) picked up 52 wickets between them, with the former finishing as the leading wicket-taker at the tournament.
Nortje, in particular, bowled with express pace throughout the competition, regularly clocking over 150 kph and even bowling the fastest ball the tournament has ever seen at 156 kph.
While there is still much uncertainty surrounding what South Africa’s best 11 is – in both T20 and ODI formats – one banker head coach Mark Boucher has at his disposal is this newly-energised speed pairing.
“I haven’t really been thinking about England, but I’m pretty excited about our two and the fact that they have been bowling together,” Boucher said when asked about the pace that will be on offer over the next few weeks, with England boasting Jofra Archer and Mark Wood in their ranks.
“Having pace is one thing, but you still have to put the ball in the right areas and I think both of our guys have been doing that.
“It’s a great asset to have … having two guys with pace. It’s something that we are continuously looking for in our country and our systems below the Proteas, to get guys through with good pace.
“I’m really looking forward to it and I hope that we can play them together.”
Boucher emphasised that he would need to manage the workloads of all his players, though. “We’re going to have to manage that process well,” he said. “We took a big decision to rest KG (Rabada) quite a bit before Covid and then Covid hit and he had some more rest, and I think we’ve seen the value of having a player like that who is fresh.
“It’s something we’ll definitely be managing as we go ahead. We can’t keep playing these guys who bowl 150 kph day in and day out. We’re not going to get the best out of them if we do it that way. It’s going to have to be some careful planning.”
When further probed on the Proteas batsmen having to front up to Archer and Wood, Boucher was not overly concerned. “Pace is something that you probably get used to, not that you always enjoy it, but you get used to it,” he said.
“If we’ve got KG and Ana (Nortje) bowling at 150 kph, I think that’s good enough preparation for whatever England might throw at us.”