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Proteas’ ‘resilience’ under pressure makes coach proud

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In each contest of the T20 World Cup thus far, the Proteas were pushed to their very limit – none more so than the last-over thriller against Bangladesh.

The Proteas have shown a lot of fight in the group stages of the T20 World Cup, and were the first team to qualify for the Super 8 stage of the tournament. Picture: TIMOTHY A CLARY, AFP

PROTEAS white-ball coach Rob Walter may have lost most of his hair a long time ago, but he would certainly have left it all behind in New York.

The South Africans were the first team to officially qualify for the Super Eight stage of the T20 World Cup, courtesy of their three consecutive victories in the Big Apple – but none of them were the equivalent of a stroll in Central Park.

In each contest, the Proteas were pushed to their very limit – none more so than the last-over thriller against Bangladesh.

Each game required the Proteas to show off their resilience in different forms in order to edge over the line.

In years gone by, a fair few of those results would have been reversed, with the Proteas’ lungs choking up in those pressure situations.

Walter, therefore, cannot be more pleased with the way his team handled not just the unique playing conditions in the United States, but also his team’s game management.

“Obviously stoked to see how the guys have responded under pressure,” Walter told the media from Saint Vincent and Grenadine yesterday, ahead of Saturday’s clash against Nepal at the Arnos Vale Stadium (1.30am SA time start).

“I said to the team, we have been on the wrong side of those results in the past. So it’s been great to see how the guys have played and fought under pressure.

“The fight, resilience shown in these games, they were incredibly tight. Your progression to the next round relies on those results, so there is definitely an edge to that – so great to see how the guys responded to that.”

As in previous major tournaments, the Proteas have added a performance manager in Tom Dawson-Squibb to their coaching team.

Dawson-Squibb was part of the Proteas’ run to the 50-overs World Cup semi-finals in India last year, and has previously worked extensively with major rugby teams such as the Stormers in the United Rugby Championship.

Walter certainly values Dawson-Squibb’s input, along with the rest of his management team, particularly with the intensity only set to increase threefold during the Super Eight phase.

“Tom, along with the entire coaching staff, are continuously trying to assess the mindset of the team, and try to understand what they need from us,” Walter said.

“Trying to understand what is required to create those winning moments, and then jump on it when they arrive in the game.

“We know it’s not going to get less from here.

“Going into the Super Eight, it’s three massive games you are playing in eight days, with travel in between.

“It’s going to be a significant week, and hopefully as we move to the semi-final stage, it’s good to be put under pressure early, and hopefully along the way we can have some easy games.”

Walter also indicated that he is unlikely to make wholesale changes for the effectively dead rubber against Nepal.

“We’ll not make too many changes, unless the conditions tell us to do that,” he said. “Obviously it was a tough outing for the top order in New York, so we don’t want to change too much there.

“We want to allow guys to hopefully play on a better surface. We still have areas in our game we want to improve, and get some consistency there. Conditions will dictate.

“I think you have to be realistic. As a batter, you can only do what you can. The guys have been working hard on their games to stay in touch. This is a funny game, where just one shot can change everything.”

The most likely change to the starting XI that played all three matches in New York could be the inclusion of left-arm wrist spinner Tabraiz Shamsi alongside Keshav Maharaj.

Walter will certainly have a conundrum on his hands in terms of which paceman to bench to accommodate the two-pronged spin attack.

All four seamers were exceptional in New York, aided by a helpful Nassau County surface, and any one of them would regard themselves unfortunate to be missing out.

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