JOHANNESBURG – Andile Phehlukwayo’s importance to South Africa’s limited overs unit has grown rapidly in the last few weeks, alongside his increasing maturity as a top level cricketer.
Still only 21, and with just a year’s worth of international experience, Phehlukwayo has quickly placed himself in pole position in the seam bowling all-rounder position, which has developed into a deep pool of talent in the last 12 months.
On Thursday night in Bloemfontein he produced a match-turning performance with the ball, dismissing Bangladeshi opener Soumya Sarkar in the 10th over to rip the initiative away from the tourists who had started well in pursuit of South Africa’s hefty target of 196.
It’s Phehlukwayo’s variety and courage to employ his variations which has been such a feature of his play at international level.
He’d already shown for the Dolphins two seasons ago, that he thrived in the spotlight, with his performances at the ‘death’ with the ball a major part of their run to the final of the 2015 domestic T20 competition.
With the selectors choosing to rest all the top stars ahead of a busy summer, Phehlukwayo was the most experienced of South Africa’s seamers in Bloemfontein, but if there was any extra burden on his shoulders because of that he wasn’t showing it.
It was a crafty spell of four overs in which he conceded just 25 runs, while adding the key wicket of Mahmudullah to that of Sarkar as well. “Andile has up-skilled so much in the last few months,” observed AB de Villiers.
That improvement has not just taken place in coloured clothing, but in Test whites too, as was witnessed in the Bloemfontein Test when he picked up three wickets in Bangladesh’s second innings, by building pressure and getting the ball to move off the surface.
With Chris Morris returning to the fold soon, and Dwaine Pretorius, Wayne Parnell and Wiaan Mulder waiting in the wings, there is enough for the selectors to choose from in the seam-bowling all-rounder department.
The competition between those players will make for intriguing viewing over the next few months as Ottis Gibson assesses potential candidates for the 2019 World Cup.
In the meanwhile, there is a series to be won against Bangladesh on Sunday in Potchefstroom, where the second T20 International will be played.
Although the Bangladeshis showed some improvement in Bloemfontein, the gulf between them and the Proteas remains big. “It was a good competitive game (in Bloemfontein) and hopefully there’ll be more of that in Potch,” said De Villiers.
It will be the last match of what has been a wretched tour for the Bangladeshis who’ve been pounded in all formats over the last month.