By Niall Anderson in Birmingham
Their Cricket World Cup history hardly provides proof, but South Africa are already claiming the mental edge ahead of their showdown with the Black Caps.
At least, that’s the verdict from Proteas all-rounder Andile Phehlukwayo, who made the bold call ahead of their meeting in Birmingham on Wednesday.
New Zealand have won their last four World Cup clashes against South Africa, the most famous of all coming four years ago, when Grant Elliott’s match-winning six broke South African hearts in the semifinal at Eden Park.
That extended South Africa’s underwhelming World Cup record, having never managed to progress past the semifinals – a run which looks likely to continue with the Proteas having won just one of their first five games at the 2019 edition.
However, when it comes to playing New Zealand, Phehlukwayo would rather look at performances more recent than that 2015 World Cup disappointment.
Five months after that extraordinary day in Auckland, South Africa claimed a 2-1 ODI series win over the Black Caps in South Africa, before taking a 3-2 series triumph in New Zealand in 2017 – victories that Phehlukwayo believes give South Africa an edge.
“We’ve played against New Zealand a couple of times, and I think the last time we were there we won, [and] against them at home, so I think mentally we already have that upper hand,” Phehlukwayo claimed after South Africa’s win over Afghanistan.
Whether that’s true or not, what is indisputable is South Africa’s desperate need for another victory. Having lost to England, Bangladesh and India, a rained out match against the West Indies left South Africa needing to win all of their remaining games to have a hope of making the semifinals.
They started that process in fine style, destroying Afghanistan by nine wickets yesterday, and the team believes that the dominant nature of the victory is a turning point for their campaign and one that makes them a more potent opponent for the Black Caps.
“The first three games we didn’t play like we did today,” analysed South African captain Faf du Plessis after the Afghanistan win.
“Forget the opposition. It’s the stuff that you can control yourself, and there was energy in the bowlers. There was energy in the fielders. Batters were clear in what they needed to do.
“So hopefully this is a real confidence booster for everyone on the team. And there’s a little bit of weight that you feel that’s off your shoulders now – we know what’s lying ahead; we need to win every game that we play. Today was a really good step in the right direction.”
South Africa are now viewing the second phase of the tournament as a fresh start, and all-rounder Chris Morris summed up their new nothing-to-lose attitude – one where you expect every edge, perceived or otherwise, will be gratefully accepted.
“Every game’s a quarter-final for us now, so it’s pretty simple what we have to do.
“It’s do or die.”
The Alternative Commentary Collective are podcasting their way through the World Cup. Known for their unconventional sports analysis and off-kilter banter, the ACC have come to ask the tough questions. Here’s the latest episode of ‘The Agenda’:
WARNING: GRAPHIC CONTENT
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Publish date : 2019-06-16 22:54:00