Five lessons from South Africa’s T20 series against Australia before their World T20 campaign starts next week.
While flexibility in game management is important, this refers more to the selection issue facing the selectors in the buildup to the tournament. Hashim Amla’s performances have made it impossible to drop him, while Quinton de Kock and AB de Villiers simply must play. The issue is getting tired now but Faf du Plessis and Russell Domingo must do what is best for the team, even if that means Du Plessis has to move down the order to No 4. They need to show they can adapt.
The role of the sixth bowler is a crucial one, especially in games where Imran Tahir or one of the seamers go for a lot of runs. While he hasn’t bowled much recently, JP Duminy will fill that role at the World Cup and that is why he got a bowl in the third T20. This is what Faf du Plessis had to say on the matter: ‘The sixth bowler is really important to me. I do feel that we are at our best when we have that sixth bowler option. That is why as a captain I was trying to get JP to bowl as much as possible when the situations allowed for it because he is so important as that sixth bowler.’
The selectors are unlikely to find a place for Kyle Abbott in the XI despite his skills and ability as a death bowler. Dale Steyn came through well in the two games he played while Kagiso Rabada is also now undroppable and continuing his rise in stature. If Abbott were to play, it would probably mean dropping one of the all-rounders in David Wiese and Chris Morris. If the conditions call for it, South Africa shouldn’t be afraid to make the change and rely on their strong top order to get the runs they need.
Tahir’s economy rate crucial
It is no coincidence that in the two games Australia won, Tahir conceded 47 and 38 runs in each of his four overs. Compare that to the first T20, where Tahir claimed 3-21 in helping South Africa win by three wickets. Against England, he took 4-21 and 1-25 and the Proteas won both games. It shows a pattern that when Tahir does well, so does South Africa and when he doesn’t, they struggle. It also puts more pressure on Wiese, the fifth bowler, to contain an end because if both of them leak runs, it creates a big problem and forces the captain to turn to JP Duminy as the sixth bowler and second spinner.
What to do about Phangiso?
It’s a risk to take Aaron Phangiso to the tournament after he couldn’t play in any of the games against Australia because of an illegal bowling action. It’s unclear whether his altered action will stand up to the pressures of a 20-over game and there remains the risk of him being cited again during the tournament. While he will be able to play on before being tested, it’s not an ideal situation. It’s also a difficult one for the selectors since Phangiso, on merit, is unlikely to get a game at the World Cup.
The problem is Fikile Mbalula, South Africa’s sports minister, has taken an interest in the player, even calling him a ‘black diamond’ after he was suspended from bowling recently, and will no doubt keep an eye on things in India. Phangiso was the only player of the 15-man World Cup squad not to play a game at last year’s 50-over World Cup in Australia so it will be interesting to see if it happens again this time around. With accusations by black players of ‘window dressing’ with the composition of squads in the past, the selectors might be forced to give him a game. It will be a risk, because even the so-called ‘minnows’ have a chance of upsetting the bigger teams in the 20-over format, while the other three teams in South Africa’s group are England, West Indies and Sri Lanka.