By Alan Baldwin
LONDON (Reuters) – The absence of experienced pace bowler Dale Steyn is a blow for South Africa ahead of Thursday’s Cricket World Cup opener against England at The Oval, captain Faf du Plessis said on Wednesday.
Steyn has spent more than a month on the sidelines and was ruled out on Tuesday, though South Africa hope he will be fit to face India on June 5.
“He is a big loss to our team,” du Plessis told reporters before a training session at the south London ground.
“…He was probably about 60 percent when the squad was picked so we anticipated for this to happen, but a fit Dale Steyn makes our bowling attack a very, very strong one.
“So tomorrow will be a little bit of chopping and changing.”
Du Plessis said the trio of Steyn, right-arm paceman Kagiso Rabada and fast bowler Lungi Ngidi represented a real strike force as Plan A if all were fit. It was now a question of resorting to Plan B or C.
All-rounders Chris Morris and Dwaine Pretorius are in the frame to replace Steyn, with du Plessis saying the emphasis had to be on getting wickets.
“There’s no point in trying to play a defensive style of cricket against England,” he added. “We’ll pick our team to try and be as positive as we can be.”
South Africa have yet to win the 50 overs title and du Plessis, captaining a World Cup side for the first time, said the emphasis would be on enjoying the cricket and the experience.
England, he said, were deservedly the favourites but South Africa would not make the mistake of getting too focused on the opposition.
“We are going in as underdogs,” he said. “There’s not a lot of people talking about South Africa winning the World Cup. If that releases some players in the team, then that’s great.
“The focus for us is making sure that we really have a good time…. You do treat these events as more important or bigger games than you normally do and in that lies a recipe that we shouldn’t follow.
“It’s a case of making sure we have a really good time together, because that’s when you are most relaxed. When you are intense and desperate, that’s when you make mistakes.”
(Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by John Stonestreet)