JOHANNESBURG – Wednesday’s T20 Challenge semi-final between the Highveld Lions and the KZN Dolphins provided further evidence that spinners have been the primary game-changers in the tournament.
That trend will most certainly hold for Sunday’s final as well when the Warriors face the Lions at the Wanderers in the last match of the domestic season.
While there were a number of turning points in the match, the main one arrived at the end of the PowerPlay in the Dolphins innings when veteran left-arm spinner Aaron Phangiso put a halt to the visiting side’s early assault.
Morne van Wyk and Vaughn van Jaarsveld had scored 50 with the field restrictions in place, but Phangiso’s over went for just three. Off the very first ball of the subsequent over bowled by Wiaan Mulder, Van Wyk was comically run out, and the momentum the Dolphins had built up was stopped.
Phangiso finished his spell of four overs conceding just 19 runs and he also claimed the wicket of the Dolphins’ top scorer Van Jaarsveld with his penultimate delivery.
It was a typically accurate spell from Phangiso - there was not much in the way of spin - but the subtle changes in pace were enough to limit the Dolphins’ scoring options.
“As much as the pitch can provide assistance, you still have to bowl well, the pitch did play a big role, it was slow and offered a bit of turn,” said Phangiso. “Look at how all over the country the way the spinners have bowled, they’ve all played a big role in this competition. It has been in favour of the spinners. It’s about time that was the case.”
Although the competition’s top wicket-taker is Cobras all-rounder Rory Kleinveldt with 14, Phangiso (8), his Lions teammate Bjorn Fortuin (11) and the Dolphins’ Prenelan Subrayen (9) are all in the top 10 in that category.
A better illustration of spinners’ impact is to look at the economy rate category (average runs conceded per over) and there, among bowlers who’ve delivered more than 20 overs, are six spinners.
It’s topped by Fortuin, who’s conceded just 5.52 runs an over.
“He’s a gun bowler for us,” Phangiso said about his fellow left-arm spinner. “In the four years he’s been with us, this is probably the best he’s bowled. The way he is able to operate in the PowerPlays and even at the end of the innings has been bonus for us.”
Indeed, such have been the pitches that it hasn’t been unusual for teams to open the bowling with spinners. That has meant batsmen have had to adapt, and not simply benefit from the ball coming onto the bat, but to generate pace from the out-set themselves.
This tournament may have been unwelcome for some administrators, coaches and even players at the end of a long season, but it may yet prove beneficial for South African cricket given the spin bowling that has been on display.@shockerhess