Andile Phehlukwayo hopes to bounce back against England. Photo: Reuters
LONDON: South Africa made one change over the course of their three matches at the Champions Trophy.

It came in the last game, necessitated by events against Pakistan. Andile Phehlukwayo made his tournament bow at The Oval, against an Indian side with everything to play for.

Though the match was in South London, Phehlukwayo could be forgiven for thinking it was an away game. “During the anthems, it really felt like an away game. We couldn’t even see any South Africans in the stands,” he said upon reflection this week.

“We spoke about the fact that we had to give each other lots of energy from within, because it wasn’t going to come from the crowd,” he explained.

The exuberance of youth on such occasions can take a bit to control, and Phehlukwayo admitted that he did overrun the first ball that came to him in the field. “Eish, I knew it was coming towards me at fine-leg, but I went too quickly! I overran it, and it obviously went for four.” 

The Indian stand behind him tore into him, which was as much as he expected. There is a time and a place to overrun a cricket ball, and The Oval against India is neither.

He did settle beyond that, though, and enjoyed the challenge of bowling to Shikhar Dhawan and Virat Kohli. “On this trip, I have really enjoyed the challenge of bowling to top-class batters.”

There have been a few, too. Joe Root, Eoin Morgan and the ominous Ben Stokes for England, and then Kohli in full flow for India.

“I haven’t played in England with the senior guys before, as I came for an under-19 tour,” he explained. “The conditions do vary around the country, and I have learnt a lot. To different batsmen, you have certain plans, as compared to others,” he pointed out.

Andile Phehlukwayo has been trusted with the death-bowling duties by Proteas captain AB de Villiers. Photo: Reuters

The margins, he learnt, are small at the sharpest end of the game. But one thing that has already impressed his peers is that the Glenwood High product refuses to shy away from the pressure moments.

He wants the ball, and skipper AB de Villiers has been happy to employ him in the death-bowling role. Against India, it never got to that point, because there were not enough runs on the board.

With England also knocked out, both sides will look for confidence in the T20 series. This mission was always going to be an educational one for Phehlukwayo. 

He admits that the pressure that comes with being in this team is very clear, and the disappointment of not living up to the standards of the past year over the past fortnight have hurt.

But there is a grim determination to show up in the T20 series, and restore some pride. “So far we’ve played well in glimpses,” he admitted. “So we are looking forward to trying to put together that perfect game.

“I’m also keen to contribute, be it with either bat or ball.”

The Proteas are resting a host of Test players, so more will be expected from those already in the 50-over squad. Phehlukwayo reckons he’s well up for the task.

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