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Cricket news - Ready reckoner: South Africa

South Africa's openers will remain key to their side's fortunes.

Why should you support them?

South Africa's story in the World Cup is cricket's ultimate Shakespearan tragedy. In 1992, in 1999, in 2003 and in 2007, they had every reason why they shouldn't have been knocked out when they were, and yet they found themselves in situations and put themselves in one that would keep them away from cricket's ultimate trophy. This would be the first time since 1996 that they would be coming to a World Cup without being one of the favourites for the title, and also possibly the last time a fine generation of cricketers - Dale Steyn, Faf du Plessis, Imran Tahir, Hashim Amla and JP Duminy - would represent them at the World Cup.

So what's their gameplan?

They have an experienced opening duo, an in-form middle order, some fine finishers and a battery of all-rounders, but it is their bowling attack that would have to lead the charge for them. In Dale Steyn, Kagiso Rabada and Lungisani Ngidi, they have arguably the best pace attack, to go with unarguably the best spinner in limited overs cricket currently - Imran Tahir. Andile Phehlukwayo may not threaten the opposition with his pace, but his canny variations have made him an effective and a reliable 10-over option. In a tournament where 300-plus scores are expected to be chased down, the bowling could well be the difference for South Africa, and skipper du Plessis realises that.

Which player should you get excited about?

Imran Tahir. The 40-year old leggie maybe playing his last tournament but he is coming into the World Cup having finished as the highest wicket-taker in the recently-concluded Indian Premier League. While the conditions will be different in England, his variations and wicket-taking ability could make him highly effective in the middle overs. That he is also hard to score off, makes him an invaluable asset.

Which of their fixtures should you not miss?

The first game and the last. The opening encounter of the tournament - against hosts England - is expected to be high on quality, between the best batting side and the best bowling side. Not only will it be crucial in order to gain momentum in the tournament but it will also serve as a quality test of how good their bowling attack really is.

Their last group game will be against Australia. Not only will it be a contest between two equally-strong sides but also, on predicted lines, it could well be a contest to decide at least one of the semifinalists. That South Africa have tended to fluff in must-win matches at the World Cup only makes the encounter all the more exciting.

What are their chances?

They may not be the fittest or the most in-form unit going into the World Cup, but in all departments, they have top-quality personnel. If they all fire, they can be as good as any side in the competition.

Squad

Hashim Amla, Quinton de Kock (wk), Aiden Markram, Faf du Plessis (c), Rassie van der Dussen, JP Duminy, David Miller, Andile Phehlukwayo, Dwaine Pretorius, Chris Morris, Dale Steyn, Kagiso Rabada, Lungisani Ngidi, Imran Tahir, Tabraiz Shamsi

Schedule

May 30: v England, Kennington Oval, London [D]

June 02: v Bangladesh, Kennington Oval, London [D]

June 05: v India, The Rose Bowl, Southampton [D]

June 10: v West Indies, The Rose Bowl, Southampton [D]

June 15: v Afghanistan, Sophia Gardens, Cardiff [D/N]

June 19: v New Zealand, Edgbaston, Birmingham [D]

June 23: v Pakistan, Lord's, London [D]

June 28: v Sri Lanka, Riverside Ground, Chester-le-Street [D]

July 06: v Australia, Old Trafford, Manchester [D/N]

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