Cricket World Cup: Committed to South Africa’s cause, Hashim Amla and Dale Steyn train hard at Ageas Bowl
Hashim Amla gets a bouncer from Dale Steyn at Southampton. (Image: Jamie Alter)

The South African cricket team is two defeats down in the ICC Cricket World Cup 2019. Less than 24 hours after losing to Bangladesh at The Oval in London, the team has reached Southampton, a journey that by train takes less than two hours.

South Africa are not scheduled to practice today (June 3) at The Ageas Bowl, venue for the match with India in two days, but two men desperate to make an impact at the World Cup – their last World Cup – turn up in the middle of the ground.

Hashim Amla, who copped a blow to the helmet from Jofra Archer during the opening match of the tournament -which South Africa lost by 104 runs – and then missed the Bangladesh game, and Dale Steyn who has not bowled a ball during in a live match so far.

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South Africa are a fast bowler down with news that Lungi Ngidi faces at least ten days on the sidelines. Steyn has spoken of wanting to bow out on a high at the World Cup, but not being fully fit means he’s sat out both of South Africa’s matches.

Personally, Steyn and Amla, and collectively, as a team, South Africa are in a tough spot. Thus the commitment of Steyn and Amla on a warm afternoon spoke of their desperation to get back into the XI and help their team.

A little before 4pm local time, Amla and Steyn began a session on one of the practice pitches. Steyn bowls and bowls to Amla, who also receives throw-downs from a member of the coaching staff.

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From Steyn, he mostly receives back-of-a-length deliveries which force him to stand up on his toes and defend or squirt the ball towards third man. A couple are short, and Amla ducks under them. Steyn is bowling at a good pace. He looks desperate to prove his fitness and get into South African XI.

After about 20-odd minutes, Steyn puts on his floppy hat and sunglasses, gets a drink and then stands at midwicket. Amla gets some short-pitched stuff from two team assistants, and connects two pull shots.

Steyn sits down behind the throw-downs and watches, hands folded across his knees. Behind Amla, stationed at third man, stands South Africa’s coach, Ottis Gibson. Amla gets a short ball and forces if effortlessly past where backward point would be, and another team assistant collects it and throws it back.

At third man, Gibson stands up and shadow-bats a pull shot. Then he sees Amla crack the next ball to deep midwicket and jogs across, slowly, to collect it from behind the advertising boards.

At this time, Steyn gets up and walks over to the team physio and has a words, mock-delivers a few balls. Amla gets another short ball and ramps it to third man for what in his mind must be four. Then he sees width and throws his hands at it, getting a thick edge that is mopped up with a dive by support in the deep.

After batting for approximately 40 minutes, Amla packed up his kit and left. Steyn walked off with him.

In two days, we will know whether both play against India, but signs are they they are ready.