South Africa skipper Faf du Plessis has vowed to deliver an aggressive performance as his Proteas side bid to inflict the first upset of the tournament when they face hosts England in the Cricket World Cup opener at The Oval on Thursday.
“Whether we come into this tournament as favourites or as underdogs, you still have to go out on the park and play cricket and perform to win a World Cup,” he said ahead of the encounter. “England is a team that plays very aggressively. We all know that. So for us as a leadership group, it’s trying to find, how can we be most attacking and trying to get wickets.
“There’s no point in trying to play a defensive style of cricket against England because they have shown that they can take on any bowling attack on their day.”
— Wisden (@WisdenCricket) May 28, 2019
While the skipper admits Dale Steyn’s absence due to a shoulder injury is a “big loss”, he’s confident they possess enough ammunition to take on the tournament favourites, especially in the fast-bowling department. Chris Morris and Dwaine Pretorius are battling it out to complete a pace attack comprising young talents Kagiso Rabada and Lungi Ngidi.
“A fit Dale Steyn, makes our bowling attack a very, very strong one,” said du Plessis. “So tomorrow will be a little bit of chopping and changing to get a balance that we think can take on England.”
“One of our X-factors, potentially, is we have is a really, really strong attack in terms of pace. Steyn, Rabada, Ngidi is a real, real threat in English conditions. So that changes. That’s Plan A for the World Cup in terms of our balance, what we’re looking to achieve. Now it’s just a real reshuffle and looking to Plan B and C.”
England skipper Eoin Morgan, meanwhile, has confirmed that England have no injury concerns, with both himself and fast bowler Mark Wood declared fit after recovering from a respective finger fracture and ankle soreness.
England confidently chased down 160 against Afghanistan but fell short in their pursuit of 297 against Australia on Saturday. Prior to that, they thrashed Pakistan 4-0 in the five-match ODI series, reminding observers why they are favourites to land their first World Cup trophy this summer. South Africa, meanwhile, won their only warm-up match against Sri Lanka by 87 runs, with their fixture against West Indies abandoned after just 12.4 overs.
Head-to-head: Roy v Rabada
The key battle could be between England’s opening batsman Jason Roy and Proteas fast bowler Kagiso Rabada. Roy, with partner-in-crime Jonny Bairstow, have been bullish in the opening powerplay in recent times, providing an authoritative platform that sets the tone. Yet fast bowler Rabada, as his skipper has eluded to, spearheads a lethal Proteas pace attack capable of wiping out any line-up in the world on their day. Both players could go a long way to deciding their team’s fate, both in this match and the tournament as a whole.