South Africa will look go all the way this time around © Getty Images
South Africa will look go all the way this time around © Getty Images

Every time South Africa plays ICC’s major tournament, they are termed as the tournament favourites. And, if there’s a team who can stop the front-runners India, it is South Africa. Ranked no. 3 in the ICC T20I ranking, South Africa have been in the upward surge in the shortest and the fastest format of the game. They have a destructive opening pair, aggressive middle-order and fierce bowling attack. They have match-winners who can single-handedly turn the tide, and can come good as a cohesive unit. However, the “chokers” tag is something they would want to get rid of, in ICC World T20 2016. Also read: England team in ICC T20 World Cup 2016, Preview: England will look to emulate 2010 triumph

South Africa have three potential openers in Quinton de Kock, AB de Villiers and Hashim Amla. In the recently concluded series against Australia, de Kock opened with de Villiers in the first two T20I and then with Amla in the series decider. However, Amla’s unbeaten knock of 97 in the final T20I will force captain Faf du Plessis to re-strategise. However, it is a good headache to have three devastating openers in the ranks, as South Africa can’t afford to drop either of these players. Hence, keeping this in mind, du Plessis will push de Villiers down the order.

De Villiers, off late, hasn’t been at his destructive best. But form and fortune do not take time to change, as Mr. 360 degree has the knack of delivering when it matters the most. Also read: ICC Cricket World Cup 2003: South Africa’s misery with the Duckworth-Lewis tag team

Du Plessis has been in a red-hot form in the slam-bang world of T20 cricket. Ever since the series against India in 2015, he has been the highest run-scorer for South Africa in T20I and averages 41.29, which is highest for any South African. He’s arguably the top contender for the Player of the Tournament award. And, for South Africa to reach the finals fr the first time, he’ll have to continue his stellar performance this summer.

JP Duminy has been donning South Africa’s jersey for almost a decade. He averages 36.51 and has scored eight 50s in T20I. Duminy will be the one to up the ante in the middle overs and play the finisher’s role.

David Miller has been another bright aspect to South Africa’s star-studded batting line-up. If Duminy fails to deliver, it is Miller who comes to South Africa’s rescue. The first T20I against Australia at Durban was a proof of Miller’s finishing skills. South Africa had lost hopes when they were 95 for 6, but it was Miller’s majestic 35-ball 53 that took the team over the line.

South Africa have the likes of Rilee Rossouw and Farhaan Behardien at the lower-middle order. Both have the capability of using the long handle and scoring runs at a brisk rate. If need be, Behardien can also roll his arm over and chip in few overs with his right-arm medium pace.

To give South Africa more impetus, they have fast bowling all-rounders in Chris Morris and David Wiese. This not only adds depth to their batting line-up but also the gives the captain the freedom to rotate the bowlers if either of them goes for runs.

Unquestionably, South Africa have the best pace unit in the tournament. With Dale Steyn back in the side, it adds more venom to the bowling attack. Kagiso Rabada has been brimming with confidence since he contained the onslaught by MS Dhoni in the last over, in the first ODI against India, 2015. South Africa also have Kyle Abbott in their ranks. If there’s moisture in the pitch, South Africa will go for Abbott’s seaming services without giving it a second thought.

In the spin department, South Africa have leg-spinner Imran Tahir and left-arm orthodox Aaron Phangiso. If there’s spin on offer, both these spinners will come handy to take crucial wickets as well as contain runs.

South Africa’s first encounter is against England on March 18, 2016. The last time these teams met, South Africa handed England a 2-0 drubbing. But South Africa’s recent 2-1 defeat against Australia has put the team on the back foot. And, once again, South Africa couldn’t capitalize when they were 1-0 up in the series.

In South Africa’s first warm-up contest versus India at Wankhede, they thumped the in-form Team India by 4 runs in an edge-of-the-seat thriller. Yet again, it was Quinton de Kock’s knock that sunk the hosts. Indian bowlers tried their best to contain the onslaught, but there was no stopping the South Africa batsmen as they posted a mammoth 196 on the board. South African bowlers were right on the money in the batting Powerplay and didn’t give away easy runs. MS Dhoni and Yuvraj Singh were at the crease when India needed 43 off 18. It seemed like an easy task for the visitors, but edged past India by just 4 runs. Also read: South Africa pip India by 3 runs in thrilling ICC World T20 2016 warm-up match at Mumbai

South Africa will look to iron out few chinks in their bowling armoury and start the ICC World T20I 2016 on a winning note. But the question remains: will they deliver their best at the knockout stage?

South Africa ICC World Twenty20 Squad: Faf du Plessis (c), Kyle Abbott, Hashim Amla, Farhaan Behardien, Quinton de Kock (wk), AB de Villiers, JP Duminy, Imran Tahir, David Miller, Chris Morris, Aaron Phangiso, Kagiso Rabada, Rilee Rossouw, Dale Steyn, David Wiese

(Kaustubh S. Mayekar, a reporter at CricketCountry, played cricket at U-16 level. Like his idol Rahul Dravid, he often shadow-practises cricket shots. His Twitter handle is @TheCricKnight.)