Captain Preston Mommsen believes Scotland can overcome bogey team Afghanistan to launch their T20 World Cup bid in style.
The Scots must top a group also featuring Zimbabwe and Hong Kong if they are to progress to face the big guns in the Super Ten phase. And Mommsen, whose side fly to India next week, admits a winning start is vital.
He said: “We’re happy with the draw and it’s exciting to start against Afghanistan.
“I know our record against them isn’t great and they are really challenging opponents in any conditions but the fact we know them is an advantage. We have already started preparing for that match and will have specific plans for certain players.”
Hard-hitting opener Mo Shahzad, who scored 75 from just 36 balls when the Afghans beat Scotland in last year’s qualifying tournament, is rated a major threat.
Mommsen added: “We know they have guys who often stand up on the big occasions and we know the importance of getting on top of them.
“We will be raring to go against them and we know a winning start could be crucial. It will also be exciting to come up against Zimbabwe – a side I have never played against – and Hong Kong whom we know well from our recent tour there. We will have to be at our very best and hope that the rub of the green goes with us along the way but we are confident we can go through.”
A successful group campaign would see Scotland join England, South Africa, West Indies and holders Sri Lanka in the Super Ten.
Meanwhile, Cricket South Africa has condemned a tweet from a journalist in the country which drew attention to the race of their star performers in the deciding one-day international against England.
South Africa served an exile of over 20 years from international cricket from 1970 due to the Apartheid political system of racial segregation.
Since readmission, team selection has included a still-controversial quota system to ensure a certain number of non-white players in the team.
The performances of Kagiso Rabada and Temba Bavuma in the Test series against England provided encouragement, with the latter becoming the first black African to make a Test century for the Proteas.
But, after captain AB de Villiers’ century set up victory in Sunday’s fifth ODI in Cape Town, meaning South Africa overturned a 2-0 deficit to win the series 3-2, the issue was back on the agenda.
Freelance journalist Dan Retief tweeted: “SA carried to victory by two White Afrikaners… politicians and media commentators take note… for what it is worth”.
The second player would appear to be all-rounder David Wiese, who hit 41 from 32 balls in a sixth-wicket stand of 71 with De Villiers and earlier took three for 50.
Hashim Amla, the first South African of Indian descent to represent the national team, was the Proteas’ second-highest scorer with 59 and was their third-highest run-scorer in the series, while Rabada took three for 34 to finish the series with nine wickets at an average of 19.88, leading his team in both categories.
In a CSA statement in response to Retief’s comment, chief executive Haroon Lorgat said: “This is insensitive and extremely disappointing.
“AB de Villiers has conveyed to me the displeasure that this tweet has caused to the Proteas team.
“Anybody who understands the game of cricket and the Proteas in particular will know that yesterday’s victory, and indeed the series victory, was made possible by a great team effort. We are privileged and very proud to have a diverse squad of players that play as one.”
Retief retweeted a number of critical responses to his post and initially defended himself.
He wrote: “Amazed at your knee-jerk reaction to my post. Was just trying to point out, in the current climate, that all of us have a role to play. I deliberately set out to expose the racial undertones in our society and have been astonished at the reaction. Why the vitriol?”
He later apologised, though, writing: “Hi All, I unreservedly apologize if i have upset you. It was a ham-handed way to enter the SA dissertation. We are all one people. Sorry”.
CSA’s statement added: “Mr Retief has since made an apology which CSA has noted.”