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World Cup a free swing for underdogs South Africa

May 29, 2019 23:40 IST
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'Our bowling is one of our X-factors.'

IMAGE: For South Africa to stop England in their tracks in the World Cup opener, taking wickets will be essential. Photograph: Ryan Pierse/Getty Images

Faf du Plessis ramped up the pressure on hosts England, insisting Thursday’s World Cup opener is a free swing for his underdog South Africa side.

The Proteas skipper will lead his side out at The Oval against the world’s top-ranked team, who are also chasing their maiden ICC World Cup trophy this summer.


England have won 15 of their last 19 ODI series and are the early favourites on home soil.

That is a tag South Africa have been used to at recent World Cups but they are also chasing their first trophy and, despite being ranked third in the world, Du Plessis insists they will play without fear.

“Whether you are favourites or not, you still have to play good cricket,” he said.

“They deservedly have the tag because they are the home nation and have consistently played good cricket.

“But you will face such different opposition through this tournament so it is about making sure you stay focussed for the whole tournament.

“England are the favourites so if it means on the day there is less pressure on us then we can play freely.

“We are going in as underdogs and if that releases some players in the team then that is great.”

For South Africa to stop England in their tracks, taking wickets will be essential.

England captain Eoin Morgan claimed their current top seven is the best they have ever had and much of the pre-tournament talk has surrounded the prospect of them becoming the first side to score 500 runs in ODI cricket.

The loss of seamer Dale Steyn is a further boost for England, with the 35-year-old ruled out with a shoulder injury.

However, South Africa still boast a formidable pace attack led by Kagiso Rabada, the fifth-ranked bowler in ODI cricket.

“KG does not need any guidance from me,” Du Plessis added.

“I can speak to him from a tactical point of view but I won’t tell him how to bowl, he knows more than I do.

“It is about setting him free. World Cups are for people to perform and KG will want to make this his stage.

“Dale is a big loss to our team but we expected it. When we picked the squad he was 60 per cent ready so we anticipated for this to happen.

“But a fit Dale Steyn makes our attack a strong one so we need to make a few changes to our team for England.

“Our bowling is one of our X-factors. We have pace with Steyn, Rabada and (Lungi) Ngidi and that changes now. That is plan A for the World Cup in terms of our balance.”

(International Cricket Council)

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