South Africa seem to possess just too many weapons for Tuesday’s Group B match against an Irish team which look exhausted after pulling off the first upset of the World Cup.
A win at Kolkata’s renovated Eden Gardens will not only assure South Africa a quarter-final slot but also aid their bid to top the group in which they are placed third with six points from four outings.
After suffering a six-run defeat by England, Graeme Smith’s men have shown uncharacteristic resilience in the tournament so far, brightening the prospect of putting behind South Africa’s three World Cup semi-final heartbreaks.
Under Smith, South Africa have learned how to cope with pressure, a virtue some of the previous squads lacked.
They finally seemed to have overcome their big stage fright when they pulled off a thrilling three-wicket victory against India in the cauldron that was Nagpur on Saturday.
After India cruised to 267-1 in the 40th over, pace bowler Dale Steyn led a spirited fightback to run through the hosts’ famed line-up, bowling them out inside 49 overs by claiming the remaining nine wickets for a meagre 29 runs.
The same stomach for fight was evident when they fumbled in their chase.
Down the order, Faf du Plessis and Robin Peterson showed the belligerence to lead them to a memorable victory that put to rest all speculation about their resilience.
The importance of the win was not lost on Smith.
“For 25 overs up front we took a beating but for the other 75 we came back really hard and showed some real fight,” he said.
“The guys showed a lot of composure … to chase down the runs under pressure is great. The confidence you get out of a win like this is huge.”
The win was all the more special because South Africa were without their most successful bowler, Imran Tahir, who is nursing a fractured thumb.
No wonder the form book suggests a mis-match when they set their sight on the contest against Ireland.
Clearly the best second-tier team in the fray, Ireland raised expectations with their stunning victory against England and stretched India and the West Indies too before going down.
Captain William Porterfield, Ed Joyce and the O’Brien brothers — Kevin and Niall — surely know how to bat, but consistency has been their main problem.
The bowling department also consists of military medium pace bowlers and spinners but it does not look strong enough to test the in-form South African batsmen. — Reuters
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