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Finishing touches

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“The last time I was here things didn’t end overly well, but I’ve also got really fond memories of playing here.”

Charl Langeveldt gave the South African bowlers some homework to do in the few days between the end of the England T20 series and the start of the one against Australia tomorrow.

‘Go home, and find ways to bowl better under pressure, to execute yorkers under pressure,’ was the gist of the assignments handed out by the Proteas’ bowling coach.

It was the failure to execute properly under pressure with the ball that cost the South Africans the series against England. In both of the last two matches, which they lost, South Africa’s bowlers failed to execute yorkers properly. In Durban it was more about over-doing the slower balls, while at Centurion, they weren’t able to land the ball on the popping crease.

“It’s this new era in T20s, guys want to bowl change-up when they are under pressure. That’s an easy way out. The harder ball to land is your yorker. A guy like Chris Jordan, showed us how to bowl,” said Langeveldt.

“It’s about getting guys to execute under pressure. It’s difficult, you can practice in the nets, land it in the nets but once you’re under pressure, that for me is the big thing.”

Langeveldt in his playing career was South Africa’s go to ‘death bowler’, but feels the current attack needs to build their confidence in that area of the game. Of those bowlers he’s seen in recent weeks he named Sisanda Magala, who is not in the squad due to fitness problems, as the bowler who is best able to execute yorkers under pressure.

“I feel he is the most confident, he seems like he is calm and collected under pressure. With Lungi (Ngidi) it is a confidence thing. Andi (Phehlukwayo) used to be but he’s gone backwards. Like with everything it’s about training, you have to train to do it.”

South Africa will be under pressure in this three-match series against Australia.

The nature of the series defeat to England makes that the case but besides playing for spots the World Cup later in the year this series also has some historical baggage that will make it more closely scrutinised than what may usually be the case for a set of limited overs matches.

It’s Australia’s first visit to South Africa since the sandpaper affair that so dramatically impacted on what had already been a controversial Test series in 2018. Steve Smith and David Warner, two of the central figures in that drama, who were subsequently both suspended for 12 months by Cricket Australia following an investigation, are in the squads for both the T20s and ODIs.

Smith said yesterday, that he’d not had any animosity directed towards him since he and the squad arrived in the country a few days ago, but expected that to change at what will be a packed Wanderers stadium tomorrow night.

“It’s nice to be back playing in South Africa,” he said. “The last time I was here things didn’t end overly well, but I’ve also got really fond memories of playing here.”

He admitted to one brief moment recalling the last time he was in the hotel in Sandton where the team is staying again this year.

“Just walking into the hotel in Sandton, initially I was like: ‘the last time I left here it wasn’t pretty.’ It wasn’t the best time in my life. But I’ve moved on from that, learned a lot over the last two years.”

“I’ve been to a few restaurants and people have been lovely. Guys have come up and taken some photos and been really nice. It’s been normal, compared to when I’ve been here previously,” he added.

Asked if he anticipated a hostile reception at the Wanderers Smith replied: “No doubt, no doubt. I think they’re hostile here at the best of times. It doesn’t bother me too much. Justin (Langer) said the other day that we had the dress rehearsal in England, there was a fair bit going on there.

“I don’t notice it, particularly when I’m batting. Maybe a little bit when I’m fielding, but then again, it’s just words, it doesn’t affect me, it’s about getting on with the job.”