Home Sport Cricket Proteas need their volcano to erupt in T20 World Cup semi clash

Proteas need their volcano to erupt in T20 World Cup semi clash

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Afghanistan are a clear and present danger for the Proteas. They are not the pushovers who were merely happy to participate previously.

South Africa’s captain Aiden Markram (right) celebrates after the dismissal of West Indies’ Nicholas Pooran during the ICC men’s Twenty20 World Cup 2024 Super Eight cricket match. Picture: ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS, AFP

THE PROTEAS have only faced Afghanistan on two previous occasions in T20 Internationals.

Both of these encounters have come at the T20 World Cup, where the Proteas beat the Afghans by 59 runs in Bridgetown in 2010 and 37 runs at the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai in 2016.

All of this matters not a jolt when they meet for the third time in Thursday’s first semi-final at the Brian Lara Stadium in Trinidad and Tobago (2.30am SA Time start).

Afghanistan are a clear and present danger for the Proteas. They are not the pushovers who were merely happy to participate previously.

They possess some of the finest T20 cricketers in the world that hone their skills in all the major franchise leagues.

Some are even particularly familiar to the South Africans with captain Rashid Khan (MI Cape Town), Naveen-ul-Haq and Noor Ahmed (Durban’s Super Giants) having been part of the SA20 the past couple of seasons.

If the Proteas’ chequered semi-final history at major tournaments was not already enough to ignite the fire in their bellies, then the prospect of facing a highly-dangerous T20 outfit certainly has.

It is Markram though that possibly holds the golden ticket to the promised land – a first-ever appearance in a World Cup final – for the Proteas.

He remains the only senior South African captain to raise aloft a World Cup trophy when he led the SA Under-19 team to the championship back in 2014. Equally, he is also the only captain to taste success in the SA20 having led the Sunrisers Eastern Cape to back-to-back titles.

Markram’s leadership has certainly been crucial to the success of the Proteas thus far at this T20 World Cup with his decision-making under pressure being exemplary.

It is hoped that he can continue to bring this sense of calmness to a team that, through no fault of their own, carry the weight of their predecessors’ failures.

“We are approaching it no differently from any other game in the competition,” Markram told the media.

“I think we are only human and acknowledge there may be a few nerves around and the anxiety might be a bit higher.

“It’s more excitement I would assume. You would be okay with a little of nerves here and there because you don’t want to downplay the occasion of a semi-final.

“As a whole the team looks relaxed and eager to go one step further. We have been tracking really well as a white-ball team the past 18 months to two years to hopefully go one step further and into a final.

“We get calmness from the way we want to play the game and our identity as a team. I think that frees up the guys to play their best game of cricket. It’s exciting and nerve-wrecking all in one.”

But it is not just Markram the leader the Proteas need to be at his best in Trinidad. They need their skipper’s runs as he has only bubbled under the radar thus far.

The volcano needs to explode on this tropical island if the Proteas are to make history tonight.

Markram certainly has the pedigree as he has routinely shown his big-match temperament with major innings in play-off matches – notably the first Betway SA20 semi-final where he struck his maiden T20 century at Centurion.

“Any player wants to do well in the big games and make a big impact in semi-finals and knockout games,” he said.

“Definitely fizzed up to put in a performance and wanting it that extra little bit compared to other games. Fingers crossed it works out.

“As a team we are properly excited about the opportunity. It’s not just about me. We are playing good cricket and we are on the right track to lifting a trophy one day. And whenever we get there you have to look at the journey and how you got there.”

Markram also had a special message to all the Proteas fans who would be setting their alarm clock for 2.30am.

“Firstly, thank you for getting up that early … keepers!” he said.

“But seriously, the promise we make to each other as a team is to give really good and good energy about the game.

“You will see a team that is hungry to win and represent the country in a positive manner and try to express themselves to be the best cricketers they can possibly be.”

Teams for Trinidad and Tobago:

South Africa: Aiden Markram (captain), Ottniel Baartman, Gerald Coetzee, Quinton de Kock, Bjorn Fortuin, Reeza Hendricks, Marco Jansen, Heinrich Klaasen, Keshav Maharaj, David Miller, Anrich Nortje, Kagiso Rabada, Ryan Rickelton, Tabraiz Shamsi, Tristan Stubbs.

Afghanistan: Rashid Khan (captain), Rahmanullah Gurbaz, Ibrahim Zadran, Azmatullah Omarzai, Hazratullah Zazai, Najibullah Zadran, Mohammad Ishaq, Mohammad Nabi, Gulbadin Naib, Karim Janat, Nangyal Kharoti, Noor Ahmad, Naveen-ul-Haq, Fazalhaq Farooqi, Fareed Ahmad Malik.

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