Cape Town – With the RamSlam T20 Challenge reaching its conclusion on Sunday, we are now just six weeks away from the highly-anticipated ICC World T20 in Bangladesh.
South Africa will be based in Chittagong for the duration of the tournament, facing the likes of New Zealand, Sri Lanka, England and a Qualifying team in Group 1. After a successful last couple of T20 international series against Sri Lanka and Pakistan, Proteas coach Russell Domingo and T20 captain Faf du Plessis are unlikely to veer too far from those performers.
But while some appear to be certainties for a place on the flight to the sub-continent, there is still a three-match series against Australia prior to the World T20 where Domingo could experiment.
This season’s RamSlam T20 Challenge has certainly given the opportunity for players to stake a claim, and we take a closer look at possible candidates who may need to get their passports ready.
Beuran Hendricks (Cape Cobras)
When the Cobras discovered at the beginning of the RamSlam they would have to do without the services of Dale Steyn (rest) and Charl Langeveldt (injured) for the duration of their T20 campaign, there was a concern in the Cape about who would spearhead the attack. There should have been no need for alarm, though, with Hendricks raring to go after missing almost the entire 1-Day Cup through injury.
Twenty-seven wickets – a new competition record – and counting is what the “Bellville Wrecker” has produced, putting the Cobras on track for a third T20 title. The 24-year-old has bowled with good pace throughout, regularly over the 140km/h mark, while also capable of delivering subtle variations to cause the batsmen discomfort with his left-arm deliveries. Last year the RamSlam gave South African cricket Quinton de Kock, this season’s sensation has undoubtedly been Hendricks.
VERDICT: Hendricks should definitely be on the plane to Bangladesh. Regardless of how he performs in the final, he has done enough to warrant his first call-up to international cricket.
Reeza Hendricks (Knights)
No relation to Beuran, but a surname that certainly claimed the headlines in this season’s RamSlam T20. The stylish opener has been a model of consistency, racing to 317 runs at an average of 45.28.
He started with a quick-fire 60 in the opening game against the Cobras and has not looked back. It is a pity that he plays for one of the more unheralded franchises in the country, with him possibly lacking the exposure of playing in big pressure games like play-offs and finals on a regular basis.
The only criticism that can be attributed to Reeza is that despite opening the batting, he has not been able to convert one of his four half-centuries into a three-figure score.
VERDICT: If the squad were to be chosen tomorrow, it is unlikely that Reeza would get the nod ahead of the incumbent top three of Hashim Amla, De Kock and Du Plessis. Whether the selectors will look his way in view of the future could, though, see him sneak through the back door.
Cameron Delport (Dolphins)
A new-generation cricketer who seems to have been born for the shortest form of the game. Delport only knows one way to play, and that is to go on the attack from ball one.
The young opener, though, has matured a great deal since the arrival of seasoned campaigner Morné van Wyk at Kingsmead. The pair have complimented each other well in this season’s competition, with Van Wyk guiding his protégé.
Delport’s high-risk style is unlikely to have a great deal of consistency to it, but if he manages to work out a gameplan that can bring him success, he will put many an attack to the sword. His strike-rate of 147.77 is what separates him from other contenders.
VERDICT: Another who is battling hard for that reserve batsman’s spot in the 15-man squad, but a blitzkrieg innings in the play-offs could gain the favour of the national selectors.
Kyle Abbott (Dolphins)
You would not be surprised to find Kyle Abbott’s name inked in next to “Mr Reliable” in the Oxford Dictionary, such has been the consistency of the Dolphins opening bowler.
Nothing flashy, no wild celebrations every time he takes a wicket – 13 in total – but all just about accuracy and execution. Abbott bowls at all the hardest times in the game, in the opening powerplay and at the death, and almost always comes out unscathed. He has a good economy rate of 6.70 runs to the over due to his ability to deliver yorkers almost at will.
Has won countless games for the Dolphins by holding his nerve under pressure.
VERDICT: Unlucky to miss out on the Test squad for the Australian series, Abbott could be overlooked again due to the fast-bowling riches (Steyn, Morkel, Tsotsobe, Parnell, Kleinveldt, Hendricks, McLaren), but he will certainly never let any team down that calls on him.
Simon Harmer (Warriors)
Imran Tahir is likely to occupy the main spinner’s role in Bangladesh, with a bun-fight between the experienced trio of Robin Peterson, Aaron Phangiso and Roelof van der Merwe for the other spot. A name that certainly needs to be thrown into that hat is Harmer’s, and it seems the Warriors “offie” is starting to get recognition with his call-up to the Composite XI to face the Proteas in the three-day practice match at the Wanderers. Harmer is a useful limited-overs package, and while his bowling statistics have not been mind-blowing (7 wickets at 34.00, economy 7), when you add in the fact that he averaged 25.33 with the bat, the former Pretoria resident becomes a useful consideration, especially on the sub-continent. Blessed with nice thick fingers, he is one of the few South African spin bowlers who genuinely turn the ball.
VERDICT: Another who is possibly one for the future, but a genuine wholehearted player who will give nothing less that 150% if called upon. A trip to the sub-continent this early on in his career can only benefit his development.