Coming off the back of a successful tour of England, which saw them ranked at one time or another as number one in each of the three forms of the game, South Africa have to go into the World Twenty20 as one of the main contenders for the title.
Traditionally they are the nearly men of World Cups - as shown by their semi-final appearances in the 2007 and 2009 World Twenty20s - but with the likes of India, Sri Lanka and Pakistan being talked about as the pre-tournament favourites, for once South Africa do not have the burdensome favourites tag hanging round their necks.
Jacques Kallis makes his return to their Twenty20 squad, but there is no place for former captain Graeme Smith as AB de Villiers continues his emergence as the leader of the team. As ever with South African sides, the squad is packed with all-rounders, with as many as 11 of the 15 players capable of at least serviceable bowling. One thing in captain de Villiers' favour is that many of those 11 bowl spin - JP Duminy, Faf du Plessis and Justin Ontong supplementing a spin attack that is led by Johan Botha and Robin Peterson.
There is also extreme pace and hostility in the bowling attack in the forms of Morne Morkel and Dale Steyn; left-arm seam - historically a delivery style that is successful in T20 cricket - thanks to Lonwabo Tsotsobe and Wayne Parnell; and the more measured, although by no means medium-paced offerings, of Kallis and Albie Morkel.
One area of concern for South Africa is over the identity of their opening partnership. Richard Levi has held one of the positions ever since his record-breaking innings of 117 against New Zealand in February, but his form of late has been poor, leading former South Africa player Peter Kirsten to opine that "bowlers have worked him out".
Hashim Amla, another candidate for an opening berth, was not picked for the first of the three Twenty20 Internationals against England, although that may have been simply to give him a break, while Jacques Kallis was demoted to number seven in their batting order for the final two matches.
Number three is another position of slight uncertainty, with Faf du Plessis failing to quite make the position his own during the tour of England, meaning that AB de Villiers could move up a place ahead of JP Duminy and ahead of the South Africa engine room which would then include du Plessis alongside the likes of Albie Morkel and Robin Peterson.
Whatever make-up South Africa decide upon at the top of their batting line-up, it is virtually a given that they will make the Super Eights and, in reality, they should have little difficulty in beating Zimbabwe. After that it is anybody's guess, but they have to be odds-on to make the semi-finals and then they are just two wins away from what would be their first win in an ICC global event since 1998.
Hashim Amla is in the form of his life. On the tour of England, which has just finished, he averaged more than 100 in both Test and ODI cricket, and showed that he was able to transfer that form to the shortest form of the game in the two Twenty20 Internationals that followed. The most impressive part of his game was the way that he negated the threat posed by England's off-spinner Graeme Swann.
If he can counter the likes of Saeed Ajmal and Ajantha Mendis with the same ease, then expect South Africa to be close to winning the tournament. Another that impressed on the tour to England was JP Duminy, again a good player of spin bowling, and someone who South Africa regard as their finisher in limited-overs cricket.
One To Watch
Robin Peterson is a very much underrated member of South Africa's team. Coming in down the order in the ODIs in England, he hit 23 not out and 31 not out at The Oval and Lord's. His main suit, slow-left arm spin, was also impressive and he picked up nine wickets from the six limited-overs matches in which he bowled.
12th September: lost to England by 28 runs at Edgbaston
10th September: match abandoned due to rain at Old Trafford
8th September: beat England by 7 wickets at Chester-le-Street
30th March: beat India by 11 runs in Johannesburg
22nd February: beat New Zealand by 3 runs in Auckland
19th February: beat New Zealand by 8 wickets in Hamilton
17th February: beat New Zealand by 6 wickets in Wellington
Previous Tournament Performances
2007: Narrowly missed out on progressing to the semi-finals despite winning three out of four Super Eight games.
2009: Lost to eventual champions Pakistan in the semi-final.
2010: Came last in their Super Eight group - lost to eventual champions England and Pakistan.
20th September: v Zimbabwe in Hambantota
22nd September: v Sri Lanka in Hambantota
Batsmen: AB de Villiers (captain, RHB/WK), Hashim Amla (RHB), Farhaan Behardien (RHB), JP Duminy (LHB/OB), Faf du Plessis (RHB/LB), Richard Levi (RHB), Justin Ontong (RHB/OB).
All-rounders: Johan Botha (RHB/OB), Jacques Kallis (RHB/RFM), Albie Morkel (LHB/RMF), Wayne Parnell (LHB/LFM), Robin Peterson (LHB/SLA).
Bowlers: Morne Morkel (LHB/RF), Dale Steyn (RHB/RF), Lonwabo Tsotsobe (RHB/LFM)
© Cricket World 2012
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