14 years. A lot has changed since South Africa last visited Irish shores. Alex Cusack had just emerged as a revelation for the home side, Ireland were fresh off upsetting Pakistan in their first-ever World Cup victory and Kevin O’Brien was only a year into his International career.
William Porterfield is the only player from either of those squads set to take the field as the first of a three-ODI series kicks off in Malahide, though the left-hander is a doubt due to injury. Jeremy Lawlor has been raced in as cover.
Across the squads, there are old friendships to be renewed. While Wiaan Mulder and Curtis Campher played together and attended the same college as Kagiso Rabada in South Africa, Rassie van der Dussen played alongside and against members of the current Irish team in the Inter-Provincial cup in 2015.
The visitors start as favourites and, needless to say, with the fixtures a part of the World Cup Super League and essentially Qualifier matches, neither side can afford slip-ups and will look to put their best foot forward.
The conditions in the capital are expected to be batting-friendly and that will entice the South African batsmen especially the likes of van der Dussen and David Miller, who found limited opportunities to spend time at the crease in the Caribbean. Van der Dussen will look to call on his past experiences playing domestic cricket in Ireland.
Having weathered the storm (and Hurricane Elsa), their bowlers held their own against the likes of Evin Lewis, Andre Russell, Chris Gayle and Kieron Pollard in the shortest white-ball format to seal a 3-2 series win. While the change of format will throw up its own unique challenges, it is unlikely to faze a team riding the wave of momentum. That, and the fact that they lost to Pakistan at home in April will put a spring in their feet to put in a dominant performance on Sunday.
Having been on the road since last playing at home in May 2019, Ireland will welcome the home comfort and the return of spectators in a bid to improve their 2023 World Cup qualifying chances.
With only two wins out of nine Super League games, they will look back at the rubbers against Afghanistan and Netherlands and rue missed opportunities to pick up crucial wins. As they run into a side brimming with confidence, they simply need to revisit their victory against England in Southampton last year to remind themselves of their strengths.
When: 10:45 am Local Time/ 9:45 am GMT, Sunday 11th July 2021.
Where: The Village, Malahide, Dublin.
Weather: Modest rainfall is forecast for the next two days and showers are expected throughout the course of the match on Sunday. Though warm weather should prevail but just in case, go on, get your strange reveries back on.
How do the teams stack up:
With every game an opportunity to pick up crucial points, it is difficult to imagine the visitors deviating from their strongest XI possible. As a result, expect a seam-heavy attack with one of Tabraiz Shamsi or Keshav Maharaj as the lone spinner.
Squad: Temba Bavuma (captain), Andile Phehlukwayo, Beuran Hendricks, Kagiso Rabada, Quinton de Kock, Bjorn Fortuin, Reeza Hendricks, Heinrich Klaasen, George Linde, Keshav Maharaj, Janneman Malan, Aiden Markram, David Miller, Wiaan Mulder, Lungi Ngidi, Anrich Nortje, Tabraiz Shamsi, Rassie van der Dussen, Kyle Verreynne, Lizaad Williams
Speaking to the media on Friday, Andy Balbirnie confirmed that William Porterfield was to open the batting alongside Paul Stirling. After making changes, Curtis Campher is returning from an ankle injury and looks set to slot in at No. 5. It will be interesting to see if they pick both Andy McBrine and Simi Singh at the expense of a fast bowler.
Squad: Andrew Balbirnie (captain), Mark Adair, Curtis Campher, George Dockrell, Graham Kennedy, Josh Little, Andrew McBrine, Graeme McCarter, Barry McCarthy, William Porterfield, Simi Singh, Paul Stirling, Harry Tector, Lorcan Tucker, Craig Young