A victory in Belfast on Thursday will give South Africa an unassailable lead in the series – their third series win out of the four they have played on their winter tours. But they will be up against Ireland, the only team who managed to stop their juggernaut with a historic ODI win.
Ireland have all the ingredients to upset their opponents. Only that they come together in unison once in a blue moon. Their bowlers did a great job to restrict the tourists to 165/7 in the first T20Is, but the batting unit failed them.
It has been getting difficult for Kevin O’Brien to survive on reputation alone. He got out for a golden duck in the last ODI. He needs some runs now. Ireland would expect a little more pose from the rest of the batters as well.
Even though they were chasing a par total, their batters made it look like something else. Paul Stirling hit a six on the first ball of the innings but got out off the next. George Dockrell’s (2 off 6) score was the mirror image of Stirling. He could have easily taken a few more minutes. Simi Singh, Lorcan Tucker and Shane Getkate managed 11 runs between them.
South Africa, meanwhile, have still got few boxes unchecked. Their top and middle order have rarely clicked together. A good start has often been betrayed by a misfiring middle-order. But on rare occasions when the top order faltered, their middle-order stepped up, as in the last game.
Where should Temba Bavuma play? This has been among the most pressing questions for South Africa. He has scores of 0 and 13 as an opener, and has often been guilty of slowing down things. Interestingly, two of their opening batters, Janneman Malan and Aiden Markram, was demoted to Nos. 3 and 4 in the last game.
- Quinton de Kock was rested for the ODIs, and could not make much of an impact in the first T20I. Given the kind of form he is in, expect de Kock to do some damage on Thursday.
- Simi Singh conceded just 19 runs from his quota of four overs and picked up two wickets as well. Before that, in the last ODI, he scored a century. Singh has been a great utility player for Ireland, and picking him won't be a bad choice.
- Tabraiz Shamsi is in great form, having picked up 21 wickets at 13.28 this year. Shamsi was the pick of the bowlers in the first T20I, claiming four wickets.
South Africa: Temba Bavuma, Quinton de Kock, Aiden Markram, Rassie van der Dussen, David Miller, Janneman Malan, George Linde, Kagiso Rabada, Lungi Ngidi, Tabraiz Shamsi, Lizaad Williams
Ireland: Kevin O’Brien, Paul Stirling, Andy Balbirnie, Harry Tector, George Dockrell, Lorcan Tucker, Simi Singh, Shane Getkate, Barry McCarthy, Josh Little, Craig Young
South Africa should make it 2-0.
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