• Phehlukwayo bending his back for SA

    All-rounder Andile Phehlukwayo is riding high as one of the Proteas’ most valuable assets, writes DANIEL GALLAN in London.

    With the ball he looked menacing throughout his eight overs, picking up 2-18, bowling 36 dot balls in the process. With the bat, he strode to the crease at No 3 and struck a run-a-ball 17, including hitting a game-clinching six that landed in the River Taff.

    These numbers are supplemented by handy contributions against England (1-44 with the ball, 24 with the bat), Bangladesh (2-52) and India (1-40, 34). Faf du Plessis said yesterday that he has been the team’s best player. How is he handling the extra attention?

    ‘I’m just trying to train hard and contribute to the team,’ Phehlukwayo said in his characteristically humble manner.

    ‘I put pressure on myself. Looking at the bowling lineup, which is filled with world-class bowlers, most teams will try target me. It’s just about executing my skills, presenting the seam and if the wicket assists me, then I can contribute.’

    A particularly encouraging aspect of his game has been a marked increase in pace. Du Plessis said that he is no longer ‘floating’ the ball towards the batsmen, but is now hitting the deck hard. Phehlukwayo laughed at his skipper’s choice of words but did acknowledge that the speed increase is something he’s conscious of.

    ‘I’ve tried to bend my myrtle back more,’ he said. ‘It’s definitely something I’ve been working on with Ottis [Gibson]; I want to hit the deck hard on a fuller length. The pace comes from my action but also through putting in more effort. It’s attitude and technical. I’m trying not to be lazy. But that means I’m spending more time on the massage table.’

    Phehlukwayo’s all-round bowling attributes have been on show over the last three weeks. Against England on a stodgy Oval track he used subtle variations to restrict run-scoring. Against Afghanistan he attacked like a strike bowler.

    ‘You have to be smart on different wickets,’ he said. ‘I’ve done my homework and [am] trusting my skills. It’s been going my way.’

    – Gallan is a London-based sports writer,  follow him on Twitter: @danielgallan

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