South africa's record pursuit of 434 last year against Australia has given them belief that anything is possible in one-day cricket. Speaking ahead of South Africa’s opening World Cup match against the Netherlands on Thursday, captain Graeme Smith pointed to the 3-2 series win over Australia in March 2006, capped by scoring 438 in the final game, as proof.
“To chase 434 and win the game really gives you a lot of confidence in all facets of what you want to achieve, and I think this team broke a lot of barriers that day,” he said.
Australian fast bowler Glenn McGrath had accused South Africa of fearing defeat and a lack of self-belief, echoing comments from former Australian skipper Steve Waugh. But Smith returned the retort.
“I think we’ve handled pressure a lot better than Australia of late, in the big games,” Smith said.
“In the last 10 ODIs, we’ve been under pressure at times and got out of it superbly. We’ve been four or five (wickets) down and we’ve still got close to totals of 300. Australia has struggled of late before this tournament, in some finals and obviously in New Zealand, but both teams come into this tournament with the same amount of pressure on their shoulders.”
South Africa will be without fast bowler Makhaya Ntini, who is likely to be replaced by either paceman Roger Telemachus or left-arm finger spinner Robin Peterson, but Smith is concerned by the size of Warner Park and hinted that pace might be preferred.
“The ground looks pretty small. It’s not very big — the straight boundaries look small,” he said. “With our ability to hit the ball out of the ground, it’s certainly going to play into our hands.”
Smith has acquired TV footage of the Netherlands and Scotland and says he knows little about either team.
However, Shaun Pollock has done his homework on the Dutch.
“They don’t have too many express bowlers and I know their ‘keeper stands up to the stumps pretty much for the whole innings, which means you have to adopt a different gameplan when you’re batting because you have to keep your feet in the crease,” Pollock said.
“Apart from the fact that there are one or two South Africans in there that we do know — there are one or two South Africans in most teams — we don’t know a lot about them,” Smith said.