David Miller’s promotion to No 5 in the Proteas batting order has seen him raise his game to a new level.
Miller has spent the majority of his Proteas career coming in towards the back-end of the innings at No 6, but the selectors decided to give him a spot at No 5 in the absence of JP Duminy in the second ODI against England. His 71 off 51 balls got the Proteas to a point where they should have won the match.
That seemed to nail down his spot at No 5 going into the Champions Trophy, and in the space of three innings, we’ve seen the best of all aspects of his game. That 71 against England was typically brutish; it’s the type of knock we’ve come to expect from him in the last 10-15 overs of the innings.
He only scored 18 against Sri Lanka, but his 75 against Pakistan, albeit in a losing cause, will go down as one of his best. The 27-year-old came to the crease in the 15th over, with the Proteas struggling on 61-3. Miller soaked up the pressure and was at one point on 14 off 31 balls, but he lasted the entirety of the innings, and his 104-ball knock brought South Africa back into it. Without the rain, the Proteas might well have won.
‘It was really good personally. More maturity, just understanding the situation more. There’s obviously a lot of pressure in the middle order, it’s more about just giving myself a chance. If I block a couple of overs I can always catch up.
‘I was enjoying the challenge out there. There were a lot of dot balls and maidens that we had to see out. I enjoyed just giving the team a chance.’
There might well be a case for Miller’s long-term future there. In 29 matches at No 5 he averaged 49.21, as opposed to his average of 36.11 at No 6 from 54 matches. But what’s undeniable, is that he’s taken his game to new heights in the past 18 months wherever he bats. Since the beginning of 2016, he averaged 72 from 16 matches at a strike rate of 110.55, with two of his four centuries coming in this time.
‘Wherever I get told to bat, I’m just going to make the most of whatever situation I find myself in,’ Miller says. ‘I enjoy it there [No 5]. I enjoy that I get a bit more time. I’ve batted at No 6 a lot in my career, but it’s something I’ve taken on board and it gives me a bit more time.’
Miller turns 28 on Saturday, and only Quinton de Kock in that batting lineup is younger than him. Seven years after his debut, Miller is finally becoming a batsman the Proteas can turn to for results on a consistent basis.
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