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Will Phehlukwayo get a game against Afghanistan?

Proteas player Andile Phehlukwayo reacts during the ICC Men's Cricket World Cup India 2023 net sessions at Wankhede Stadium on October 23, 2023 in Mumbai, India.
Proteas player Andile Phehlukwayo reacts during the ICC Men's Cricket World Cup India 2023 net sessions at Wankhede Stadium on October 23, 2023 in Mumbai, India.
Image: Alex Davidson-ICC/ICC via Getty Images

All attention on Afghanistan then, well, sort of. 

The cavernous Narendra Modi Stadium, which depending on who you believe accommodates anywhere between 100,000 and 132,000 spectators, will host the Proteas’ final round-robin match on Friday.

In a sign that it’s a match with little consequence for the South Africans, just six players turned up for an optional training session on Thursday. 

“I think from our side it's just one game at a time. Tomorrow is really important for us to nail down things that we want to work on,” said David Miller. 

It would be disrespectful to Afghanistan to look past them, but having already secured their spot in the last four, and with their opponents for that knockout match known, it’s understandable South African minds are turning towards what’s next. 

“Obviously, it doesn't really get better than that,” Miller said of the prospect of facing Australia in the semifinal.

“A lot of excitement and it will just be a great occasion to be a part of. We missed out in 2019. We made the semi in 2015. So really excited to be back in the semis and have a great opportunity and great shot to make the final.”

South Africa would like to rekindle some of the self-belief lost in that battering they took last weekend in Kolkata from the hosts, and a solid showing on Friday will do that. 

Something else they would like to do, is perhaps avoid some of the drama that arose in tournaments past when not all the players picked in squads were made to feel as if they had been part of a World Cup.

In 2007 it was Loots Bosman, who though selected to start against West Indies, got shunted down the order and never got to bat. At the same tournament Roger Telemachus didn’t play at all. 

Famously in 2015, Aaron Phangiso, didn’t get a game even when South Africa had already qualified for the knockouts. 

All three of those incidents were painfully revisited during the Social Justice and Nation Building hearings.

“You are away from home. We are there for more than a month-and-a-half, all alone, no game time, no nothing,” Phangiso told the SJN about the 2015 tournament.

“And then to come home and know you have disappointed everyone. People ask if you think you are not good enough to play and what happened? You get into a mental state, I wouldn't say depression, but it's exhausting.”

At this year’s World Cup Andile Phehlukwayo is the only player in the South African squad who hasn’t started a match. It’s quite the turnaround for the 27-year-old all-rounder who played in every match at the 2019 tournament.

He only got selected this year after Sisanda Magala’s knee ailment didn’t heal in time and but for a few fielding stints — in which he’s taken three catches and dropped one — has only trained and carried drinks.

Miller, having outlined how he had nothing to do with selection, praised the work of those who aren’t regular starters at this tournament.

“In terms of the team and where we're at, the guys have been phenomenal off the field, really supportive and done their roles and trained really hard,” he said.

Reeza Hendricks scored an excellent 85 against England having found out five minutes before the toss he would replace Temba Bavuma, who had a stomach bug.

He was less successful in his second match against Bangladesh, making just 12. In that match, Lizaad Williams picked up two wickets. 

“I mean you see Reeza Hendricks got a game and did really well. Guys are mentally ready. You know if there happens to be a game for him, I’m 100% sure Andile will be firing on all cylinders. So, he's certainly given a lot to the team and brought a lot of energy. It's been great to see and that's the kind of thing we want from the team, to still pour in and give and not just take. So, it's been great.”


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