• Now not the time for Miller to play it safe

    David Miller took 54 innings to welcome a maiden ODI century. He has since managed four more in 52 innings. Integral to this increase has been structure within the flexibility offered by a dynamic batting order, writes Jonhenry Wilson.

    Faf du Plessis is often pressed for answers about where players will bat in the order – and last week’s pre-World Cup departure press conference was no different.

    While Du Plessis and Rassie van der Dussen will likely swap positions three and four according to circumstances and scenarios, Quinton de Kock is bound to open the batting with Hashim Amla or Aiden Markram. The onus will be on Miller to capitalise on fifth, sixth or even seventh.

    Du Plessis, by insisting that the Proteas have the batting firepower to post or pursue targets of 350-plus, highlighted the importance of Miller. He’s ‘the type of player who can score you a 100 off 70-odd deliveries,’ according to Du Plessis, Miller’s role¬†will be key in a World Cup that will likely witness plenty of 350-plus totals, as this month’s ODI series between England and Pakistan have attested.

    Having a left-hander at the crease when a leg-spinner is deployed through the middle overs¬†will be a huge asset, and perhaps in the closing throes of the innings, too. South Africa have two, with fellow left-hander JP Duminy likely to bat at six. Dangerous leg-spinners such Adam Zampa, Ish Sodhi, Adil Rashid, and Jeevan Mendis – whose googlies are less threatening than Yuzvendra Chahal, Rashid Khan’s and Shahdab Khan – could be comfortably countered with Miller and Duminy hitting the turn-in rather than away.

    Miller’s World Cup average of almost 64 is some two dozen runs more than his career aggregate of nearly 40. In seven Champions Trophy fixtures he has bettered his career average as well. These numbers are heightened by an ODI average of over 48 in England, only bettered by 53 in Australia and 54 in England. He has scored enough decisive runs against strong opposition, and in challenging conditions. He has the big-match and tournament temperament required, supported by these impressive statistics, for the Proteas’ eighth attempt at a World Cup title.

    ‘As an experienced player, he is important in our squad. You cannot substitute experience. When I speak about the experience, I speak about experience of having played in tournaments like the World Cup before. He understands what it means to play in a big tournament,’ said Du Plessis.

    Du Plessis was referencing Amla, but the sentiment extends to Miller as well. He has quietly forged an attractive niche over a nine-year ODI career, which hasn’t been as outstanding as some had anticipated, but is largely poised for a career-defining 2019 World Cup.

    Photo: Gallo Images

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    Jonhenry Wilson