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Can the Proteas do it when it counts?

The Proteas romped to a last-ball victory over Pakistan after a big chase in their warm-up meeting days out from the T20 World Cup, encouraging South African cricket fans ahead of the Super 12s phase.

Rassie van der Dussen - Proteas
Image Copyright - Steve Haag Sports

The Proteas romped to a last-ball victory over Pakistan after a big chase in their warm-up meeting days out from the T20 World Cup, encouraging South African cricket fans ahead of the Super 12s phase.

Two women looking excitedly at cellphone

Rassie van der Dussen scored a superb century in the chase, channelling his inner MS Dhoni at times to just about perfectly execute a stiff chase.

There was only one thing missing from the Proteas match against Pakistan, and that is the pressure that comes with a T20 World Cup game.

We all know that the Proteas are capable of beating any team in the world in bilateral cricket, and this side is on a winning streak, but this is an ICC tournament.

Seven matches stand between the Proteas and ending the long wait for a world title, but as those matches progress the pressure on the team will increase.

Aiden Markram and Kagiso Rabada have tasted success in ICC competitions having been part of the victorious South Africa Under-19 team that won their age-group world title in 2014. That tournament took place in the UAE, which may be something of a good omen for the Proteas.

The Proteas have only played four T20Is in the United Arab Emirates but have won all four and come into the tournament off the back of wins over teams with oodles of experience at these grounds in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

With almost any other team this convergence of factors would be enough to put them among the tournament favourites, but the Proteas have become a cricketing cliche.

While Pakistan, West Indies and even Sri Lanka are considered teams ‘you can never write off’ it is a cricketing trope that there are only two types Proteas team at a World Cup, the abject blowouts, and the contenders who choke.

Consistency in selection for a period has built a team capable of contending with the best in the world, but they must hold their nerve to change the narrative around this team.

For any other team at a similar stage in the process of development, progression to the semi-finals would be considered a pass mark, but the Proteas will know that only a win will satisfy the public.

While a tournament win is not expected, it’s what this team desperately needs, and for this generation, the 2021 T20 World Cup is a watershed moment.

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