Cricket-South Africa look to balance last of their World Cup preparations

BLOEMFONTEIN (Reuters) – South Africa are looking to balance giving returning players a chance to find their form with trying to gain some team momentum as they begin a five match One Day International series at home against Australia on Thursday.

Just one month away from the start of the World Cup, South Africa captain Temba Bavuma is seeking to use the series to clean out a few cobwebs as well as building the team’s confidence for the tournament in India from Oct. 5 – Nov. 19.

“It’s a bit of a balance because there are guys who haven’t been playing for a while and opportunity will be given to them, more for batters to get them into the right mental and physical space,” Bavuma told a Wednesday press conference.

“And for the bowlers it will be about getting time in their legs out there in the middle. I think what is more important is the synergy and the relationship between the bowlers out in the field, to get that going again.

“But I think it’s a balance giving guys opportunity, but also trying to get momentum going and looking at things going forward.”

South Africa have included spinner Keshav Maharaj and seamer Sisanda Magala in their World Cup squad, which was announced on Tuesday, after the pair overcame fitness concerns.

The five match ODI series against Australia takes in two matches in Bloemfontein and one each in Potchefstroom, Pretoria and at the Wanderers in Johannesburg.

“Our World Cup preparations started from the beginning of this year, where we saw a couple of new faces coming into the team, guys who we envisaged playing certain roles within the team. Some guys have stayed, some guys, unfortunately, are not here,” added Bavuma.

“It’s our last series before the World Cup. So I guess there’s a lot more of a significance behind it but I think in terms of everything that we’ve done our prep started a long time ago and for us it’s just a matter of continuing and challenging ourselves.”

South Africa were thrashed by Australia last week in a three-day T20 series and Bavuma admitted building confidence would be important before arriving in India.

“Confidence is a big thing. That’s what we lean on as players. You look at your good times and you try to replicate those good times when things are not going they way you would want,” he added.

(Writing by Mark Gleeson in Cape Town; Editing by Christian Radnedge)