South Africa’s win in the series opening T20 International against England may have been comprehensive, but it wasn’t without its flaws. And, like the preceding one-day series, the concerns are with the batting.
Defeating the defending World T20 champions by seven wickets with six balls to spare represents a thumping in the sport’s most abbreviated format and while the bowling was again outstanding, the batting once more featured some poor execution. No one expects a perfect performance, certainly not three weeks before the World T20 championships, but taken in combination with the one-day series, the inconsistency of the batting warrants attention.
The player under the most scrutiny is Faf du Plessis, who was making his international T20 debut on Saturday, but who over the course of the one-day series registered a highest score of just 22. He’s been batting in a number of positions, and Saturday saw him coming in at No 3, but Du Plessis can’t seem to buy a run at the moment, making just four before being trapped lbw by Steve Finn.
Captain AB de Villiers is giving Du Plessis his full support. “We all know what he’s capable of, he’s a class player,” the South African captain remarked.
“Instead of dropping him, I think it’s important to keep backing him and making sure he gets a bit of confidence going into the World Cup (World Twenty20). All I need to know is what he’s capable of and I know exactly what he’s capable of, so that’s enough for me going into the World Cup for now.”
Du Plessis lends more to South Africa than just batting, and although not used on Saturday, his leg-spin is another useful addition to a South African attack that has shown excellent form in the limited overs matches on this tour. Spinners Johan Botha and Robin Peterson made good use of helpful slow and spinning conditions in Durham – something many locals expect will be repeated in the Old Trafford surface on Monday – but it was the performance of Dale Steyn which attracted the most praise.
The world’s premier fast bowler is accustomed to having his four overs broken into all sorts of spells, but rarely has he bowled four one over spells as was the case in Durham.
“I spoke to AB briefly about how he wanted to use me. The thing is it’s only six balls, you’ve got to be sure what lines and lengths you are going to bowl to, what fields you are going to bowl to and then you make sure you hit your straps,” said Steyn who finished with 1/13, conceding just one boundary, in the final over of England’s innings.
It wasn’t a case of just trying to bowl too fast either and Steyn hinted at plans hatched when bowling in the Indian Premier League, and which he expects to repeat in Sri Lanka in the World T20 Championships.
“Just straight lines was the key. It was quite difficult for batters to hit over the top. There weren’t a lot of big hits that went for six or one-bounce four. To bowl tight lines, you don’t want to give any width away.”
De Villiers said South Africa would continue to tinker with the starting XI in the remainder of this series, not so much to look for combinations, but more in order to give players an opportunity to get some game time ahead of the Sri Lanka showpiece. “We have to prepare as best as possible for the World Cup, so we’ll try a few combinations in the next few games. The ideal situation would be to give every batsman a bat and all the bowlers a bowl.”
Monday match starts at 7.30pm (SA time). – The Star