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Wesley Botton

By Wesley Botton

Chief sports journalist

No excuses: Markram says conditions cannot be blamed if Proteas lose

South Africa will need to find a way to beat the world's top-ranked team, regardless of the conditions.

It hasn’t been an easy tournament for the South African cricket team, but given a chance to make history against India in Saturday’s T20 World Cup final in Barbados (4.30pm SA time), captain Aiden Markram says they won’t go looking for excuses if they don’t lift the trophy.

In their first three matches in New York, the SA team competed in atrocious conditions on drop-in pitches, and in their remaining games they have had to deal with a challenging travel schedule, bouncing around the Caribbean.

Markram, however, said they were accustomed to facing similar challenges as professional athletes, and they needed to put these issues aside and get on with the task at hand.

While better conditions were expected on Saturday, with a more predictable wicket, the Proteas would need to find a way to beat the world’s top-ranked T20 team, regardless of the pitch.

“We’ve been doing it for most of our careers. You jump from venue to venue where conditions are quite different, so it’s just about adapting to whatever’s in front of you, and playing the pitch and the game that’s in front of you,” Markram said.

“So we won’t look too much into it. We’ll try to find ways to always take wickets with the ball and from a batting point of view try to get to a score that’s defendable.

“Both teams have to play on the same wicket, and ultimately, if you can come up with some plans on the day that can give you a good chance to win, then hopefully it works out.”

Increased confidence

Despite being forced to dig deep in most of their matches at the tournament thus far, securing narrow victories in seven of their eight games, hope has emerged that this could be their year as the Proteas attempt to become the first SA senior cricket side to win a World Cup.

Markram said they were not getting ahead of themselves, but they did take some confidence from wrestling their way out of tight situations during the first two rounds of the competition.

“You take it in your stride, but you do get belief from winning close games and potentially winning games that you thought you weren’t going to win,” he said.

“It does a lot for the vibe in the changing room, so we’ll take a little bit of confidence from that and see if we can put it to any use in the final.”

Troubled history

The Proteas have a troubled history at World Cups, and the current team are trying to change the narrative.

In the 50-over format they’ve had some bad luck. In 1992 they needed 22 runs off 13 balls to win their semifinal, but after a rain delay they returned needing one run off 13 deliveries, which triggered the advent of the Duckworth-Lewis method.

Then, in 1999, fast bowler Allan Donald infamously dropped his bat and was run out, and they were knocked out in the semifinals. And in 2013, on home soil, they miscalculated a run chase in the group stages, which saw them eliminated and resulted in the resignation of captain Shaun Pollock.

They have not been as unfortunate in the T20 format, but they still haven’t been able to challenge for the trophy.

While they have progressed beyond the first round at all nine editions of the global showpiece in the short format, they have previously reached the semifinals only twice, in 2009 and 2014.

If they win today, they will not only be the first Proteas team to win a World Cup title, but they will also become the first side to go unbeaten at a cricket World Cup in any format.

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