Johannesburg – While it’s been a difficult few days for the South African side as the players reflect on the One-Day series loss to New Zealand, for one player, the week will at least end on a high.
Aaron Phangiso accompanied the team to Potchefstroom in the knowledge that an ODI debut awaits him at Senwes Park on Friday. “Dead-rubber” it may be, but for the 29-year-old from Soshanguve, who once dreamt of playing for Kaizer Chiefs, Friday’s match is the culmination of years of hard work and consistent performances at provincial and then franchise level.
Phangiso, who replaces the injured Robin Peterson in the starting XI, had a brief taste of international cricket playing in the last two matches of the T20 series against the Kiwis. They were two outings which had vastly contrasting outcomes for the one-time wannabee football centre-back. In East London he conceded 42 runs in four overs but he followed that up a few days later with a performance more in keeping with what viewers of domestic cricket had seen in recent seasons finishing with figures of 3/25 in Port Elizabeth.
“I was actually happy with the way I bowled in the first T20 game. I know I got hit a bit, but I got hit out off my length. It’s not like I bowled a lot of full-tosses or bad balls, so I was still confident for the second game,” Phangiso explained.
Some words of encouragement from the coaching staff followed, but what Phangiso showed in Port Elizabeth was very much in keeping with his character, that of a fighter.
It’s something that fits in well with the current South African team, but it’s not the element that’s most missing from their performances in this series.
South Africa have lacked composure and the mental wherewithal to drive home the advantage they created in the first two matches.
There was a general lack of discipline in Paarl, they had the Black Caps 140/8 in pursuit of 209, with the attitude of the players being so lax they lost sight of the over-rate leading to a two-game suspension for their skipper, AB de Villiers.
In Kimberley, it was that all too familiar batting meltdown – featuring a world record-equalling five run outs – that cost them a game they were firmly in control of with Graeme Smith and Colin Ingram at the crease.
The series loss has hurt the players and the coaching staff and there has been some tough talking behind the scenes. A victory in Friday’s final ODI is essential – the series loss is already disappointing and there is no need to add to that with an embarrassing whitewash.
For Phangiso, it offers the chance to prove himself at the highest level. “It’s nice to bowl a 10-over spell, you can build a spell, you can’t compare it to four overs which is a ‘quick in and out’.”
Much like in the T20 format, Phangiso has built a reputation on bowling tightly – his economy rate in this season Momentum 1-Day Cup was 4.42 per over – and he acknowledged that life has become harder for spinners given the new fielding restrictions with just four fielders allowed on the boundary on non-PowerPlay overs.
Dale Steyn has been recalled for Friday’s game and a decision on whether to utilise Dean Elgar, called up this week as a replacement for Hashim Amla (right quad), will be made just before the toss.
South Africa: Graeme Smith, Quinton de Kock, Colin Ingram, Faf du Plessis (capt), Farhaan Behardien, Dave Miller, Ryan McLaren, Rory Kleinveldt, Morné Morkel, Aaron Phangiso, Dale Steyn, Lonwabo Tsotsobe, Dean Elgar
New Zealand: Brendon McCullum (capt, wkt), Trent Boult, Grant Elliott, James Franklin, Martin Guptill, Ronnie Hira, Mitchell McClenaghan, Nathan McCullum, Kyle Mills, Colin Munro, Jimmy Neesham, Rob Nicol, Neil Wagner, BJ Watling, Kane Williamson