Cape Town – South Africa cruised to a comfortable 41-run victory over Afghanistan in their opening ICC T20 World Cup warm-up match on Monday in Abu Dhabi, but the most crucial factor was captain Temba Bavuma coming through unscathed in his first match since returning from a broken thumb.
Bavuma missed the last T20I series in Sri Lanka after injuring his thumb in the preceding ODI series and there was great doubt whether the Proteas skipper would be ready for Saturday's opening game against Australia in Abu Dhabi.
He would be pleased with the outcome after only having his first "live net" session last week Friday.
The skipper used the match more as a training session and time out in the middle than anything else, as he used up 39 balls for his 31 runs at a strike-rate of 79.48. This is, of course, not how Bavuma intends batting at the T20 World Cup, where a strike-rate in the region of 120-130 is considered par for the course.
Aiden Markram continued his recent good T20 form, and showed that he learnt plenty about the conditions in the UAE from his time with the Punjab Kings during the Indian Premier League as he stroked 48 off just 35 balls (2x4, 2x6). Interestingly, Markram walked to the crease at No 3 which is likely where he will settle in for the T20 World Cup after being moved around the order in recent times.
Although Afghanistan did not call on their superstar spinner Rasheed Khan to bowl in this warm-up encounter, Lance Klusener's team still possessed world-class T20 campaigners such as Mujeeb Ur Rahman and Mohammad Nabi.
South Africa's spinners showed once again they are going to be handful to contend with on the slow surfaces of the UAE as Bjorn Fortuin (1/12), Keshav Maharaj (1/14) and World No 1 T20 bowler Tabraiz Shamsi (3/18) delivered their allotted 12 overs for a cumulative return of 5/44.
A further boost for the Proteas was fast bowler Lungi Ngdi also returning to action after a lengthy lay-off with figures of 2/27 that helped restrict the Afghans to 104/8.