Former Proteas spinner PAT SYMCOX says the emergence of Rassie van der Dussen at international level has thrown a spanner in the works for the selectors.
South Africa produced a character-building win against Pakistan in the second ODI in Durban, which levelled the series 1-1 with three matches to play. Rassie van der Dussen and Andile Phehlukwayo combined at the crease to deliver a quality finish and set the series up for a fitting end.
Van der Dussen really came into his own in the second ODI, and he looks a much more confident and complete player. Granted, he has some technical issues with the bat he needs to deal with around his stance, and when he plays more against spin on low, slow, turning wickets, he will need to work a couple of things out. However, he was very competent against seam bowling, looked good when the ball was short and drove well down the ground.
He was balanced at the crease, and most importantly, he didn’t lose his cool under pressure. He didn’t try to chase the game and ensured he saw it home. Technique is one thing and temperament is another. He showed he has an old head on young shoulders and has a coolness under pressure, which is something you can’t buy at Pick n Pay.
Phehlukwayo also delivered with the bat in the second ODI with a career-best knock of 69 not out, but he enjoyed plenty of good fortune, and the cricket gods were with him. I still believe No7 is a position too high for him on the batting card, but as an all-rounder he ticks the boxes. On a bowling front, he seems to be a wicket-taker and does the job when needed. He breaks partnerships and bowls X-factor balls at times.
If he can limit the run-scoring balls, I believe he will get even better. Phehlukwayo is young, but he showed a lot of maturity in the five-wicket win against Pakistan. Phehlukwayo’s impetuousness was curtailed and Van der Dussen’s calmness rubbed off on to him. All credit to Phehlukwayo, who has put himself ahead of other guys who aren’t playing at the moment.
With the Cricket World Cup in May in mind, are we moving closer to the team we are settling on? Now that Van der Dussen is displaying what he has, where does Aiden Markram fit into the picture?
Hashim Amla and Quinton de Kock are obviously going to open the batting, which means that N03 is a straight shootout between Markram and Van der Dussen. To date, Markram hasn’t enjoyed a great ODI record and hasn’t really withstood the pressure, so he may be feeling the heat. With the starting XI coming into sharp focus, with only an ODI series against Sri Lanka to come prior to the showpiece tournament in the UK, the question is who is going to miss out?
Van der Dussen has put a spanner in the works in the No3 batting position, but jockeying for positions and competition for places is a nice problem to have. The bar has been raised and players such as Markram have to step up to the plate.
The sooner South Africa get to a settled ODI unit the better, because you start to allow the players to define their roles. The ultimate goal is the World Cup in England, and South Africa have to assess what the conditions will be like when making team selections. The Proteas may be looking at playing the extra batsman on pitches that seam around or swing more.
In terms of the Proteas’ next ODI assignment on Friday, Centurion is a fortress and the home team should win more games there. From a match point of view, both sides have let each other off the hook so far this series, and it’s symptomatic of both teams’ issues and why they are fourth and fifth on the ICC ODI team rankings.
PAT SYMCOX COLUMNS