Zaahier Adams considers what the 2-2 T20I series draw between Indian and South Africa tells us about what lies ahead with the T20 World Cup in Australia looming large on the horizon later this year.
The end of the road
Classy. Elegant. Easy on the eye. All these adjectives have been used to describe Reeza Hendricks over the years. His talent has never been in question. We’ve seen it often enough on the domestic circuit, most recently in the 1-Day Cup Final where he struck a spellbinding 157 to power the Lions to the trophy. For good measure, Hendricks followed it up with another good series for the SA ‘A’ side in Zimbabwe leading into the series against India. However, at 33 years old, and after numerous opportunities to leave his mark on the international stage, a call needs to be made. Aiden Markram and Quinton de Kock were not available for South Africa at the top of the order at various stages of this past series, and Hendricks failed to fill the breach. There is simply no place for him in the 15-man T20 World Cup squad.
Elephant in the room
Prior to this series Proteas captain Temba Bavuma committed to opening the innings with Quinton de Kock. That part of the deal was kept. Bavuma opened in every game before hurting his elbow in the fourth match. A return of 61 runs at an average of 20.33 at a strike-rate of 103.38 was not the intended result though. The skipper - like everyone else - struggled against the impressive Bhuvneshwar Kumar on admittedly tricky surfaces upfront. It did not help Bavuma’s cause that De Kock was ruled out for two games and he was partnered with an equally out-of-touch Hendricks. Like Hendricks, Bavuma has his qualities. He’s an astounding captain and ambassador. But the Proteas need dynamism upfront, and they can’t rely solely on sporadic performances from De Kock to provide it. The England series will be crucial to see how Bavuma finds a formula to be consistently successful in T20 Internationals.
It certainly was a series for fast bowlers making their return to the Proteas T20I team. Some have been away longer than others like Wayne Parnell, who hadn’t played since 2017, while Lungi Ngidi hadn’t seen any short form action since the West Indies tour last year. Then there’s Anrich Nortje who also missed the entire international home summer due to injury.
All three enjoyed various degrees of success. Parnell impressed with his economy rate of 7.25 in the first three matches he played. Ngidi struck vital blows upfront in his two games while maintaining a solid economy rate of 5.77. Nortje was the most expensive with 8.92 as he still seemed to be working his way back from injury, but through his sheer pace still has the ability to pick up crucial wickets. With Parnell slotted into the all-rounder category, it could develop into a straight shoot-out between Nortje and Ngidi for the second seamer’s role alongside Kagiso Rabada.
Shamsi’s lights go out
Tabraiz Shamsi has been a match-winner for South Africa ever since Imran Tahir’s services were no longer required. His inclusion in the ICC T20 XI for 2021 speaks volumes for his performances, which is justified by his ranking among the very top T20 bowlers in the world. However, the Indian series exposed Shamsi with India’s batting unit targeting the left-arm wrist-spinner. A single wicket at an average of 102 and economy rate 10.20 is a lowly return for someone of Shamsi’s ability. Perhaps the desire to perform well in Indian conditions against Indian batters after being overlooked in the Indian Premier League auction consumed him. However, being dropped for the final match in Bengaluru would have stung for Shami is passionate about playing for the Proteas. One bad series is not a train smash. He will come back stronger in the England series.
South Africa handed out two T20I debuts to Warriors duo Tristan Stubbs and Marco Jansen during the series. There was plenty of excitement when Stubbs was picked in the series opener after Markram was ruled out with Covid, but the record-breaking partnership between Rassie van der Dussen and David Miller denied him an opportunity to bat. He was then left out of the next three games before being recalled for the final match where rain intervened yet again. Stubbs will be hoping for better luck in the next series in England. Jansen, at least, was able to take the new ball in Rajkot where he picked up his maiden T20I wicket. The beanpole left-armer certainly adds variation to the Proteas attack, and his ability to extract extra bounce may be an asset in Australia, but right now he is still very much learning his trade.