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PROTEA CONFIDENCE

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MORE THAN READY: AB de Villiers and Proteas head coach Russell Domingo during the 2017 CSA Departure press conference yesterday.

Whatever the outcome of Russell Domingo’s now protracted decision-making process over his job, the South African team’s playing leadership says it won’t be a distraction at the Champions Trophy.

Domingo has left it to Cricket South Africa’s Board to answer questions about his future. As it stands, he will be out of a his current job once SA’s tour to England ends in August. In the meanwhile, from Domingo and the players there is complete focus on what AB de Villiers yesterday explained was the short-term goal.

“As a team, I want us to have a good short-term plan over the next few months. It’s a huge tour to the UK.

“The World Cup is huge, but for now we have an opportunity, to play three good ODIs against England and then the Champions Trophy, and that’s what I am focusing in on right now,” said the Proteas ODI skipper.

As the No 1 ranked team in the 50-over format South Africa enter the event as one of the favourites and in fine fettle. They’ve won seven out of the nine series they’ve played since the 2015 World Cup and a few of those victories – notably in series deciders against India, New Zealand and England – have imbued the players and the coaching staff with confidence.

“How we went about winning those games are things we will look to employ when we get to the Champions Trophy,” said Domingo.

“We ticked a lot of boxes and did a lot of things correctly in those must-win games and we’ve learned a lot of lessons. I’m confident, feeling at ease…the team have been under pressure in the last few years and come through (those tough periods). I don’t think we need to do too much differently, just focus on what we’ve done in the last few years and try and implement those strategies and tactics.”

South Africa will play two warm-up games against Sussex and Northamptonshire followed by three ODIs against England starting next Wednesday. Those matches will provide opportunities to tinker with combinations and provide players who’ve been on the sidelines lately, to shake off the cobwebs ahead of the Champions Trophy opener against Sri Lanka at The Oval on June 3.

De Villiers is certainly excited about the number of options he has at his disposal with the ball and is confident that whatever the conditions, the squad will have the right personnel to thrive. While a lot has been made of Australia’s four-prong pace attack, De Villiers explained South Africa were capable of fielding something similar, or rope in extra spin should conditions warrant.

“Imran Tahir is the best one-day bowler in the world and I know (Keshav Maharaj) is a bit of left field selection but we have reasons for him coming into the side I like the fact that there is a finger spinner who can control the game and also bat at the back end of the innings. We have a bit of everything with the seamers; bowlers who can land it in the same area all day long, and all-out pace – we can play an all out pace attack if we want to – it’s one of our biggest strengths.”

South Africa is in a group with the big three from the subcontinent, but De Villiers warned that his side wouldn’t have a significant advantage facing those sides in English conditions. “People in South Africa might say it’s an easy draw for us, playing sub-continent teams in the UK where the ball might move around. But from past experience and also the history of that tournament in the UK it’s the subcontinent teams that have done well. We are well aware of that.”

SA Squad for Champions Trophy:

Hashim Amla, Quinton de Kock, Faf du Plessis, AB de Villiers (capt), JP Duminy, Dave Miller, Andile Phehlukwayo, Chris Morris, Wayne Parnell, Dwaine Pretorius, Kagiso Rabada, Imran Tahir, Farhaan Behardien, Keshav Maharaj, Morné Morkel.

SA’s Champions Trophy Schedule:

vs Sri Lanka, The Oval, June 3

vs Pakistan, Edgbaston, June 7

vs India, The Oval, June 11

Semi-final 1, Cardiff, June 14

Semi-final 2, Edgbaston, June 15

Final, The Oval, June 18