Full-strength Proteas eye good start

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The Proteas will have a fully fit squad from which to select for their opening ICC Champions Trophy match against Sri Lanka at The Oval in London on Saturday. 

Imran Tahir and David Miller passed their respective fitness tests on Friday, and are available for selection for the Group B clash.

Captain, AB de Villiers, welcomed the duo’s return, particularly Tahir who is the Proteas’ highest wicket-taker in the last year with 35 scalps at an average of 24.37. While Tahir is a straight pick, De Villiers says finding the perfect balance with the ball will be important against the sub-continent team.

“Imran is fit and he’s our No. 1 bowler, our No. 1 spin bowler,” he said at his pre-match press conference at The Oval on Friday. “Keshav (Maharaj) understands his role when it comes to that. There might be a time in the tournament where we might use a different strategy, if we play against a certain opposition or on a certain field. But for tomorrow, Imran is our top spin bowler and the No. 1 pick.

“That is a difficult decision, especially for a game like tomorrow’s,” he said of selection. “We know that we have an opportunity and the ability to bowl the Sri Lankan side out. It’s a matter of getting that combination right and getting the right players on the park to do so. To me it’s really important to get your top three-four bowlers in there. Not that the all-rounders can’t take wickets but I’ll probably be leaning towards getting our best bowlers in to make sure we have our best chance to bowl them out and to get ten wickets in the game.”

Watch: AB de Villiers press conference

The tournament will be a chance for De Villiers and his men to reap the rewards of the hard work and progress they have made over the last 18 months, and will also be a glimpse of the future looking ahead to the ICC Cricket World Cup in 2019.

“I think it will help a crazy lot if we can win this one for the 2019 World Cup,” he said. “It’s again here in England. If you can do it once here, you can definitely repeat it. There is a lot of focus on this tournament. It’s a short tournament, so it’s not quite the same as the World Cup, not the same kind of challenges. But if you do get your rhythms right in this tournament and you get going, and if we do that, I think we’ll be difficult to stop.”

Play is scheduled to start at 10h30 local time (BST).