South Africa has been boosted by Kyle Abbott’s return to fitness for the second One-Day International (ODI) against England at St George’s Park in Port Elizabeth on Saturday. Abbott has been struggling with a left hamstring injury which ruled him out of the first match in Bloemfontein, and is available for selection after passing a fitness test. Proteas batsman, Faf Du Plessis, says the availability of Abbott will bring a lot more consistency to the attack, which was a bit wayward in prime batting conditions in Bloemfontein: ‘It’s a big boost. Something we have missed a lot this whole series is experience. Although Kyle hasn’t played 100 ODI’s he has played a little bit more than the guys who have been given opportunities. We are trying to get some experience in the field, Dale (Steyn) has been a big loss for us, his boots are always big shoes to fill so it is always a big challenge for whomever comes in. Kyle brings consistency, he is someone who has bowled well for us in white-ball cricket and in the T20’s as well.’
Du Plessis says it will be important to put the pressure on the England batsmen from ball one, especially as the squad will be more familiar with the conditions with insight from local man, Proteas coach, Russell Domingo: ‘We have played here quite a bit and we know the wicket is not going to be the same. Our bowlers need to be smarter, in Bloemfontein our bowlers only started bowling better a quarter into the game, we were smarter with our decision-making. It’s important for us to try and do that from the beginning, not wake up 10 or 15 overs in the game to try and put our plans into place.’ The Proteas’ T20 captain scored 55 and shared in a 110-run second-wicket partnership with Quinton De Kock in the opening match, but says he needs to start converting the good starts into match-winning contributions for the side.
He says: ‘I reflected on the last two years of ODI cricket, which has been exceptional for me. Although I have been low on runs in the Test matches before the ODI series, I felt I was starting to hit the ball a lot better. It doesn’t change what format you are playing in but you can feel as a batter when you are hitting the ball well. I started feeling confident in my preparation and things started changing for me slowly at the end of the Test series. I feel like I’m hitting the ball as well as I can. Now it’s about sticking to my game plan and making sure that I do the things that have been working for me. For me in one-day cricket it’s been good over the last period of time but I’d still like to turn the fifties into bigger scores. I have been getting a lot of fifties but not as many hundreds as I would like, for me that is the next step.’