Sri Lankan conditions should suit Proteas
The euphoria of the test series will have worn off as the Proteas get ready for the one-day series against England. As with all international series, the ODI part of the tour is important, but it is the test series that was priority No 1 on this tour.
The Proteas will of course do everything in their power to beat England in the shorter version of the game. The one-day squad is different from the test squad, so the new players coming in won't be lacking in motivation. Victory in the one-day series will be an added bonus.
The T20 matches at the end of the tour, however, will have added importance, because the ICC World T20 is just around the corner. Other than a couple of practice matches at the start of the event, this will be the last opportunity for the Proteas to hone their T20 skills. The world event starts in Sri Lanka in just under a month's time.
Normally one would say that a T20 match in England is not good preparation for a tournament that takes place on the sub-continent because conditions are so different. I am just finishing off a stint in Sri Lanka coaching in their Premier League and I have been surprised by the conditions.
The two venues where the Premier League is being played feature strongly during the world T20 as well. Matches have been largely played at night with an 8pm start, and conditions in the evening have been very different from a normal sub-continent scenario.
The unexpected variable has been the amount of movement available to the seam bowlers. The ball has swung and seamed consistently under lights. As a consequence, scores have been lower than one would expect during a tournament of this nature. This is good news for the Proteas.
Should conditions remain the same for the World T20, the much-vaunted pace attack South Africa will field during the tournament will come strongly into their own. Expecting spin to dominate, the South African selectors included enough spinners in their squad, but such is the all-round strength of the South African squad that they will be able to select a combination that is competitive irrespective of the circumstances.
Success in the tournament will, as always, depend on many factors, but one of the most important considerations will be selecting the best possible balance for the conditions that will prevail. Assessing conditions successfully and then selecting an appropriate combination to compete under those conditions will be an important task for the captain AB de Villiers and the coach Gary Kirsten. I am sure that they will make it their business to research as much as possible what to expect.
Qualification for the "Super Eights" should be a formality for the Proteas. They are grouped with the home nation Sri Lanka and Zimbabwe. Two teams out of the group move on to the next phase. Both South Africa and Sri Lanka should go through. It is difficult to imagine Zimbabwe upsetting either team. Once the tournament reaches the knock-out phase anything can happen – such is the nature of the T20 game. It will be at that stage of the tournament where South Africa's mental approach will be tested.
The Proteas have had their share of problems in ICC events at the knockout phase. This is where the strong mental approach that has sometimes existed in test cricket needs to be transported to the shorter version of the game in an all-or-nothing contest.
As always the Proteas have more than enough ability both individually and collectively to win this tournament. There are some other good teams in the event as well and tournaments on the sub-continent tend to deliver surprises, but no one is in a better position than the Proteas. At this early stage the Proteas are certainly one of the favourites.