South African coach Mark Boucher has given a veiled warning to his players that they need to "put their hands up" if they want to be part of the country's T20 World Cup squad in Australia in October and November. With his team reeling after a record low score and record defeat in the first T20 international against Australia at the Wanderers Stadium on Friday, South Africa need to bounce back almost immediately in the second of three matches in Port Elizabeth on Sunday. The team were travelling on Saturday, which means there isn't even time for a proper practice before Sunday's day match at St George's Park.
South Africa were bowled out for 89 and lost by 107 runs on Friday. It was by nine runs their lowest T20 international total and by 12 their worst defeat by runs. There was a further blow for the team on Saturday when the International Cricket Council announced that the players had been fined 20 percent of their match fees for a slow over rate. Apart from having to fetch the ball as the Australians hit 20 fours and six sixes in a total of 196 for six, South Africa effectively bowled two extra overs by sending down 12 wides.
"There are certain places up for grabs and with guys getting opportunities, it's important that they take them now," said Boucher.
"A month or so before the World Cup we want to have our minds made up on who we want to take as a 15-man squad.
"It's difficult for players to make a name for themselves a month before the tournament. Now is the time that players need to put their hands up and stake a claim for positions."
Boucher made it clear that positions were still up for grabs. "We don't quite know what our combinations are going to be and we are waiting for guys to step up," he said.
Boucher said the bowling on Friday was poor, with one of the worst offenders being star fast bowler Kagiso Rabada, who conceded 45 runs in three overs. "Our lines and lengths were really bad," said Boucher. "It's not like they were running down the wicket and taking us on. We were giving them boundary options."
That South Africa are some distance off deciding their best combinations is illustrated by the fact they have a 16-man squad for the current series – and that was after three players were left out from the squad for a closely-contested series against England which ended last Sunday. With AB de Villiers expected to come back to strengthen the batting and experienced T20 campaigners like Imran Tahir and possibly Chris Morris coming into the reckoning, Boucher’s warning that performances now will be crucial seems relevant.