THE Proteas are set to continue their Twenty20 shake-up. Uncapped players Henry Davids and Aaron Phangiso are likely to get their first taste of international action in the three-match series against New Zealand later this month.
Cricket South Africa seem to have finally realised there are fundamental differences between the shortest format of the game and Test cricket, where the Proteas are currently ranked No 1 in the world.
A nightmare World T20 campaign in Sri Lanka a couple of months ago has made the CSA suits sit up and take notice. They played their first hand with the promotion of Russell Domingo to the role of head T20 coach, easing the burden on Gary Kirsten in a managerial split similar to England’s situation with Andy Flower (Tests) and Ashley Giles (limited-overs).
In tune with this new-found thinking, Domingo and national convenor of selectors Andrew Hudson are now likely to place their faith in fresh faces, with Titans opener Davids and Lions left-arm spinner Phangiso top of the list to try and correct the previous failures of the Proteas at World T20 jamborees.
South Africa were utterly disappointing in Sri Lanka, only beating Zimbabwe and hosts Sri Lanka in a seven-over slogfest during the group stages. AB de Villiers’s team lost all three Super Eight games (Pakistan, Australia and India) to make yet another early exit.
In four attempts, the Proteas have only qualified for the semi-finals once – at the 2009 tournament in England.
A major reason for South Africa’s dismal showing was the failure to exploit the powerplay overs. The Proteas brainstrust had rightly based a great degree of their planning around opener Richard Levi after his record-breaking exploits in New Zealand at the beginning of the year. However, the opposition countered this threat with spin, which highlighted Levi’s technical deficiencies, and in turn showed that Hashim Amla and Jacques Kallis (great players that they are) simply cannot be at the crease together during a T20 match.
The run-rate just nose-dived, putting the middle-order under severe pressure in every game. And this is where Davids has caught the attention of the national selection panel. The former Cobras batsman has thrived in a new environment at the Titans, and showed an exciting willingness to attack the six powerplay overs during the Champions League T20 on home soil at the beginning of the season.
At 32, Davids is no rookie and proved he was comfortable with his game against international-class bowling attacks. He smashed 154 runs, averaging 54 in the competition, which played a big role in the Titans progressing to the semi-finals. Although Davids was behind fellow South Africans like Jacques Rudolph (172), Neil McKenzie (176) and Gulam Bodi (208) on the run-scoring charts, his hugely impressive strike-rate of 142.10 was vastly superior.
Phangiso is another who seems to have benefited from Champions League T20 exposure. The man from Garankuwa could not put a foot wrong, or bowl a bad ball, during that fortnight and finished the tournament as the second leading wicket-taker with 10 scalps.
It was not just the amount of wickets, or his average of 11.80, which was impressive, but more importantly the fact that he conceded just 5.32 runs to the over. He, too, was not afraid of the big stage, as he proved when he claimed the big wicket of the “Little Master” Sachin Tendulkar at the Wanderers.
Possible recalls are also on the cards for new Test cap Rory Kleinveldt and Dolphins basher David Miller. A wicket-keeper is also likely to be selected to ease the burden on captain De Villiers. Domingo’s reign starts on December 21 in Durban, before the Black Caps roadshow makes its way to East London two days later. The final match of the series is on Boxing Day in Domingo’s home town of Port Elizabeth.