MALAHIDE, Ireland: South Africa and Ireland will face off in the shortest format of cricket for the first time on Monday (today) with the hosts brimming with confidence after defeating the Proteas in an ODI for the first time last week.
Both the teams are entering the final stages of preparation for the T20 World Cup later this year, with South Africa gearing up for a group that includes England, Australia and West Indies, and Ireland needing to go through a qualifier against Sri Lanka, Netherlands and Namibia.
Ireland have the more difficult task, having last played T20I cricket over a year ago, in March, against Afghanistan. Since then, they have had series against Zimbabwe, Bangladesh, New Zealand and Pakistan cancelled but will play at least eight matches (three against South Africa and five against Zimbabwe) in the lead-up to the global event in October.
South Africa have fewer matches, just six (three against Ireland and three against Sri Lanka, after a series against India has had to be postponed again because of the IPL) and plenty of questions remain over their strategy.
Despite beating West Indies 3-2 earlier this month, they have yet to settle on combinations but aim to use the Ireland matches to solidify their plans.
Coach Mark Boucher indicated there is a level of fatigue in the camp, made worse by news of unrest at home, but with just a week left on the road, they have promised to give it their all.
Ireland’s headliner Kevin O’Brien will be back to try and find form as he prepares for the T20 World Cup. O’Brien has played five international matches this year – all ODIs – and managed just 27 runs, with three scores in single-figures and a duck. He has also had a tough time in the Irish inter-provincial T20 tournament, with 47 runs in six matches and a top score of 16. His last international milestone came almost two years ago, a century in a T20I against Hong Kong.