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Botha calls for early blitz against Aussies

Source - iol.co.za

There may not be any hard and fast plans for how to play 20-over cricket, but starting hard and fast is pretty important.

That's what South Africa's captain Johan Botha is after in Friday's first Standard Bank Pro20 match against Australia at the Wanderers.

Botha is aware that the South African side he led in Australia had a tendency to fall behind early, and though they were able to regain a foothold in the 50-over matches, the 20-over format doesn't provide the time for a game-changing fightback.

"We know we have to start well; we can't let Australia get ahead again in the Pro20s and maybe the one-day series," he said.

A sluggish start in the Melbourne 20-over match earlier this year allowed David Warner to fire the Australians to a massive total, which ultimately became a match-winning one as the South Africans succumbed to the pressure of having to chase at nearly 10 runs an over.

As South Africa - and for that matter, Australia - seek to establish a brand of play that will prove successful in this format, a lot will depend on the younger players both sides have included for this two-game Pro20 Series.

Besides Warner, the Australians are also looking for their youngsters - like Callum Ferguson, a stylish right-hand batsman in the mould of Jacques Kallis; Ben Laughlin, a lanky right-arm seamer; and Brett Geeves, another right-arm seamer - to establish themselves ahead of the T20 World Championship later this year.

"We've got some new guys in the squad, so it's important that we get used to playing together," said Australian vice-captain Michael Clarke.

"A lot of the guys we've got here in this squad will be in the 20/20 World Cup squad, so it's pretty important that we start gelling together."

Winning this series remains a priority for both sides.

Victory, of course, makes the creation of game plans for the T20 championship much easier and, more importantly, builds confidence.

South Africa need their youngsters, who they'll rely on heavily at the world championship in England, to get the taste of victory now.

"There is going to be a bit of experimenting because we need to get our team for the World Cup sorted out," Botha explained. "If the new guys can put in some good performances, then they can definitely get themselves a spot in that World Cup team."

One of those new guys is Roelof van der Merwe, known affectionately by his Titans teammates as 'Bulldog' for his love of a scrap. He is an interesting and welcome addition to the national side in the shortest format. In the domestic Pro20 tournament, he has a strike rate of over 130, while his economy rate of 7.54 for a slow bowler is excellent.

"He knows what to do when batsmen start taking him on, he's got an escape outlet, and he deserves his spot in the side," Botha remarked.

Whether Van der Merwe plays tonight remains to be seen. Neither side had finalised their starting line-ups and both have said that all their squad members will have a run in the two Pro20 matches, the second of which will be played at Centurion on Sunday.

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