Proteas to focus on fielding in T20s against Sri Lanka, says David Miller
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JOHANNESBURG - The Proteas head into the three match T20 series with Sri Lanka that starts Friday, looking to build on the confidence that arose from the series win against West Indies in July.
That 3-2 result in the Caribbean against the current world champions is probably the most significant feat of Mark Boucher’s tenure as coach and Temba Bavuma’s stint as captain.
It was built on the team’s new found strength in the spin bowling department, some good fielding and the brilliance of Quinton de Kock at the top of the order.
De Kock missed the One-Day series against Sri Lanka, but he, David Miller and Lungi Ngidi are all back for the three T20 Internationals, providing a significant boost in experience and class for a Proteas team left bitterly disappointed by the series defeat in the 50-over format.
South Africa’s overall T20 record since Boucher took over is a poor one - 11 wins from 26 matches, with 15 losses. However, a lot of experimenting with personnel and combinations has taken place in that time, while a couple of injuries along the way, has also upset the rhythm of the side.
However there was a more settled look to the team in the Caribbean, even as they tweaked combinations, particularly seeking to add depth in the batting, while still providing Bavuma with more than five bowling options.
“What we’ve been through in the last couple of months, I believe, has been a huge stepping stone in our T20 campaign. We took a lot of confidence from beating the West Indies,” Miller said on Thursday.
South Africa is by no means the finished article. “We still need to work out different combinations. In T20 you need to be flexible.”
Bavuma’s absence because of a fractured thumb, means Reeza Hendricks is likely to open with De Kock, while Markram - who’s part-time off-spin is becoming more influential - will slot in at no.3. Miller’s place in the middle order is absolutely vital, because he’s regarded as the primary ‘finisher’ but the return of Dwaine Pretorius, gives South Africa an extra power hitter down the order.
Ngidi’s return strengthens the seam bowling options, but it will be interesting to see how South Africa use those fast bowling resources. Kagiso Rabada struggled in two of the three ODIs, and may be benched for the first match on Friday
Given his form with the ball, and the manner in which he led the side in Bavuma’s absence it would be a surprise if Maharaj didn’t start and if he did, it would be his international debut in the format.
Maharaj showed in the domestic T20 competition held in Durban earlier this year that he is very adept at leading a team in the shortest format and in conditions where spinners are likely to bowl the majority of the overs. He also made himself a genuine threat with the ball inside the power play and it will be interesting to see if he can replicate that on the international stage.
Miller said a particular focus for the Proteas will be fielding, which was mostly good in the ODIs, but as with so many other aspects of the side’s play is prone to bouts of inconsistency. “That is something that we will get right. There have been areas in the last few months in the fielding department where we can certainly improve. We are aware of it. Justin Ontong (fielding coach) is working extremely hard behind the scenes to get the guys right,” Miller.
He had missed the ODIs with a hamstring injury, but said he was fully recovered, with the ailment not being as bad as initially thought.
Friday’s opening T20 International starts at 4.30pm SA time.
SA T20 Squad for Sri Lanka:
Quinton de Kock, Bjorn Fortuin, Beuran Hendricks, Reeza Hendricks, Heinrich Klaasen, George Linde, Keshav Maharaj, Sisanda Magala, Aiden Markram, David Miller, Wiaan Mulder, Lungi Ngidi, Anrich Nortje, Dwaine Pretorius, Kagiso Rabada, Tabraiz Shamsi, Rassie van der Dussen, Lizaad Williams.