World Twenty20: Illnesses dog South Africa's planning for opening fixture


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The Independent Online

South Africa's preparations for today's opening Group C fixture with Zimbabwe have been disrupted by a virus that has affected five members of the squad. With all-rounder Albie Morkel facing a morning fitness test ahead of the match, the composition of the side will not be settled until shortly before they begin their campaign. Even so it would be a huge surprise were they not to end Zimbabwe's involvement in the tournament.

South Africa's northerly neighbours were well beaten in the tournament's opening game against Sri Lanka and defeat in Hambantota this afternoon would see Alan Butcher's side cast as the first to be sent home. South Africa's management refused to name the quintet who have been ill but expect most of them to be able to feature today.

"We have a few guys who've gone down with viral infection, vomiting and diarrhoea but I am happy to say that they are on the mend," said Mohammed Moosajee, South Africa's manager.

Morkel underwent a scan after leaving the field with back spasms having bowled only nine balls in Monday's warm-up victory over New Zealand. Morkel's ability with bat and ball are important to the balance of South Africa's side, but his absence is unlikely to matter against Zimbabwe.

Sri Lanka had little difficulty in securing a thumping 82-run victory on Tuesday, a game in which the watching South Africans were more interested in assessing how the pitch played rather than how today's opponents fared. South Africa also play Sri Lanka at the Mahinda Rajapaksa stadium on Saturday in a contest that will – presuming Zimbabwe are beaten today – settle the group.

Zimbabwe were destroyed by Ajantha Mendis's remarkable figures of six for eight and South Africa are likely to play two spinners as a result (virus allowing) with Robin Peterson, who opened the bowling against New Zealand, set to join first-choice Johan Botha.

Zimbabwe did beat South Africa in a Twenty20 warm-up tournament in June, but it was an experimental visiting line-up that succumbed in Harare. "We will have to put in a vastly improved performance than against Sri Lanka," said Butcher, the former Surrey and Essex coach. "We have to pick ourselves up and be positive against what we know is a very good side."

World Twenty20: Results & fixtures

Yesterday's results

Group A (Colombo): India 159-5 [Kohli 50] bt Afghanistan 136 [Nabi 31; Balaji 3-19] by 23 runs

Group B (Colombo): Australia 125-3 [Watson 51] bt Ireland 123-7 [K O'Brien 35; Watson 3-26] by 7 wickets

Today's fixture

Group C (Hambantota, 3pm BST): South Africa v Zimbabwe

TV Sky Sports 1