Johannesburg – While the RamSlam T20 Challenge has proved a hindrance for the national selectors as they contemplate options for the Test series against Australia, on the flip side, it’s provided them with valuable data about choices for the World T20 Championships which take place in March.
Whether Andrew Hudson and his fellow selectors feel players not recently in the national T20 squad have banged hard enough on the door to merit inclusion for the tournament in Bangladesh, however, remains to be seen.
Judging form – of individuals and teams – can be tricky in the sport’s shortest format, but South Africa’s results last year were encouraging enough to build confidence that they were on the right path. South Africa won five out of eight T20 Internationals last year, with four of those wins coming in Sri Lanka and the United Arab Emirates where conditions – pitch and atmospheric – are reasonably similar to what the players can expect to encounter in Bangladesh.
“I don’t really expect that there’ll be wholesale changes (to the squad),” Hudson told The Star this week.
The players picked in the T20 squad for the matches against Pakistan last November have largely looked in good nick in the RamSlam. Of those in a vulnerable position are Lonwabo Tsotsobe, who hasn’t played for the Highveld Lions yet because of injury, Aaron Phangiso, who hasn’t been as successful as in recent seasons, and David Wiese, whose opportunities with the bat have been limited due to some good performances by those ahead of him in the order while with the ball, the Titans’ spin strategy has seen him restricted to bowling just five overs in three matches.
“It’s important that guys have experience of sub-continent conditions. Picking someone because he’s been playing well in the RamSlam in our conditions doesn’t mean he’ll be able to translate that form into those conditions, which will be very different,” said Hudson.
With that in mind, Robin Peterson is probably putting himself ahead of Phangiso for the second front-line spinner’s spot. Though there’s not much to choose between them statistically in this season’s RamSlam – Peterson’s picked up four wickets to Phangiso’s two and neither has made an impression with the bat – Peterson has more experience of the sub-continent (he was SA’s leading wicket-taker at the World Cup in 2011) – and of course offers significantly more with the bat than the Lions player.
One area of concern for Hudson was the lack of “finishers” with the bat. “Dave Miller has done extremely well, but what if something happens to him; do we have an alternative?” Hudson wondered.
Wiese was initially thought to be that player, but hasn’t had the chance to show those big hitting skills for the Titans this season. Strangely, one of the reasons for that is Albie Morkel, a player not included in the provisional 30-man squad last month.
Morkel has shown flashes of the form that’s made him among the most valued T20 players in the world – his 49 against the Warriors in Benoni on Wednesday night was a brutal display of hitting that helped propel the Titans to a dramatic win. There’s of course no rule stating that the selectors can’t pick from outside of the provisional squad, but Morkel, who last played for South Africa at the previous ICC World T20, appears to be very much on the outside as far as the selectors are concerned.
The top scorer in the RamSlam this season, Reeza Hendricks, is another who isn’t part of the provisional squad, however, barring injury to one of the incumbents it’s unlikely he’ll force himself into the final 15-man group. Hendricks has scored 206 runs in four innings’, going past 50 on three occasions, but with Quinton de Kock, Hashim Amla and T20 captain Faf du Plessis holding down the top order batting positions, Hendricks would be better placed concentrating his efforts on getting the Knights higher up the RamSlam log.
Having thumped the hapless Lions in Bloemfontein last week, the Knights host the table-topping Cobras this evening, where victory is crucial to keep them in the hunt for the playoff spots.
Friday (6pm): Knights v Cobras, Bloemfontein; Warriors v Dolphins, Port Elizabeth; Lions v Titans, Potchefstroom
Sunday (start 2pm): Warriors v Lions, East London; Dolphins v Cobras, Durban; Titans v Knights, Centurion
SA Provisional T20 squad: Faf du Plessis (capt), Kyle Abbott, Hashim Amla, Farhaan Behardien, Henry Davids, Quinton de Kock, AB de Villiers, JP Duminy, Dean Elgar, Beuran Hendricks, Imran Tahir, Colin Ingram, Rory Kleinveldt, Ryan McLaren, David Miller, Morne Morkel, Chris Morris, Justin Ontong, Wayne Parnell, Robin Peterson, Aaron Phangiso, Vernon Philander, Rilee Rossouw, Dale Steyn, Rusty Theron, Lonwabo Tsotsobe, Vaughn van Jaarsveld, Dane Vilas, Hardus Viljoen, David Wiese