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Proteas acquire key knowledge ahead of T20 World Cup in Windies series win

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In upsetting the West Indies in the five-match T20I series, South Africa displayed mental fortitude for which they are not usually known and a willingness to surrender to new ideas.

George Linde of the Proteas celebrates the dismissal of Lendl Simmons of West Indies during the 5th and final T20I. Picture: Randy Brooks/AFP

IN UPSETTING the West Indies in the five-match T20 series, South Africa displayed mental fortitude for which they are not usually known and a willingness to surrender to new ideas.

In addition, they also gained a boost in confidence that coach Mark Boucher described as “immense.”

SA batted first four times in the series, and in each of the three matches they won, defended totals that were, by their own admission, just about par for a dry and slow surface.

In doing so they needed to be mentally strong, knowing that against a power-packed batting unit like the West Indies they would have to be willing to see sixes go crashing into the blue seats at the Grenada stadium, and show patience through the middle overs.

It was in that period of all the West Indies’ innings that SA proved stronger thanks to Tabraiz Shamsi, George Linde and incredibly in the deciding match of the series Wiaan Mulder.

“We were very skilful in the middle overs with our spinners. You have to find a way to win, which is exactly what we did. What makes this series win so special is that we were smart in the way we went about things,” Boucher said.

Allowing themselves to let the spinners lead the way with the ball is something very new for SA, but in the series they were happy to do that and, as Boucher mentioned afterwards, it will prove very beneficial at the T20 World Cup, which will be played in the United Arab Emirates and Oman later this year.

“The biggest thing for me is the fact that we took away a lot of knowledge from the games we played. We are probably going to be playing in conditions like this in the UAE. The wickets after the Indian Premier League are going to be dry,” Boucher said.

The IPL will be played just a couple of weeks before the ICC global event at the same grounds as the T20 World Cup in October this year. “Indian conditions are very similar to UAE conditions; if anything it will go towards the extreme side of subcontinent conditions because they are playing the IPL there,” Boucher said.

“The wickets are going to be worn. The scores will probably go even further down. It will be tough to bat, especially at the backend like we saw here. The nice thing is we will have an idea what the scores will be and what kind of combinations work by watching the IPL. I suspect spinners will play a massive role.”

The balance of the Proteas’ starting team never looked right during the series against the current T20 World Cup holders. They seemed a batsman short in each match and it will be interesting to see if or how they address that issue once someone like Dwaine Pretorius is available again.

Of course, they would have been helped had David Miller been in better form. The usually free scoring left hander, described by captain Temba Bavuma as being the team’s “finisher” with the bat, struggled with his form in Grenada. He scored 52 runs in five innings, but his strike-rate of 108.3 was the major concern.

There may be talk about which spot in the order he bats, but that really isn’t the argument with Miller, it is in fact how long he has to bat. He came to the crease in Saturday’s decider, with 35 balls remaining in the innings with SA’s total on 128, a strong position, with eight wickets in hand, and he proceeded to score 18 off 16 balls, hitting just one boundary.

“There’s a couple of guys out of form. If you are winning series against a team like that with some guys out of form then you must be doing something right,” Boucher said.

He wants to get Miller into some form against Ireland, where the Proteas journey next to play, three one-day internationals and three T20s. “We need to get some guys in form and maybe there is an opportunity in this next series (against Ireland) so that we can finish off innings better,” said Boucher.