The Proteas might have to ‘sacrifice’ some speed in T20s
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It’s really nice having Lungi Ngidi, Kagiso Rabada and Anrich Nortje in the starting team.
In the Test format, that’s a match-winning triumvirate. They showed that against the West Indies and as they learn to work together better, there is every chance they may become like the Steyn-Morkel-Philander threesome, which helped make the Proteas the No 1 side in the world in 2012.
They can work as a trio in the T20 format as well, but it means the Proteas have to ‘sacrifice’ some other element in the starting XI.
Can they sacrifice a spinner? Or a batsman? In the first two matches in the West Indies, it’s been the latter. South Africa basically batted down to No 7, a position occupied by George Linde in the opening exchanges at the weekend.
The selectors are asking Rabada to continue the clean hitting form he showed in his two innings in the Test series.
But that is asking a lot of Rabada, against some very experienced T20 bowlers.
The effect it has had on South Africa’s top order could be seen in those opening exchanges against a West Indies side that had Dwayne Bravo batting at No 9. The Proteas, with Quinton de Kock in blistering form, have played very well in the PowerPlay.
They scored 53 in the opening match and 69 in the second. From there, the scoring rate dropped; in the first match from nine runs an over to seven in the four overs immediately following the PowerPlay. In the second match it was worse - from more than 11 runs an over, to just four runs an over from sixth to the 10th over of the innings.
That’s an alarming drop off, especially given that in Sunday’s match, South Africa lost just one wicket between the sixth and 10th overs.
What seems to be happening is that, the Proteas are succumbing to the ploy of keeping wickets in hand for the ‘death’ period in the innings.
The concern being that they don’t want to leave 18 to 20 balls for their lower order to negotiate.
By being so circumspect, they halted the momentum created in the PowerPlay and handed the initiative back to the West Indies. It was extremely costly in the first match, but not so much in the second where the spinners; Linde and Tabraiz Shamsi were outstanding.
Those two underlined their value to the T20 team, and it looks increasingly difficult to go into a match without both of them.
Which means, the position of those three fast bowlers needs to be assessed.
It is very likely that had Dwaine Pretorius been available, he would have started in one of their places. Regardless, given the balance of the starting team, room really needs to be made for a seam-bowling allrounder, to add depth to the batting.
In the squad currently on tour, Andile Phehlukwayo and Wiaan Mulder fit the bill.
But Mulder hasn’t featured much for the Proteas in the white ball formats lately, while Phehlukwayo’s form and confidence have been at a low ebb for the last two years.
However, for the sake of the national side’s balance, one of them have to be considered, because depth in the batting is critical. Totals of 160 will not win a high percentage of T20 matches.
Of course an extra bowling option also needs to be very seriously considered, making Aiden Markram a very strong candidate either for the top order, or possibly even the middle, with his off-spin giving Temba Bavuma, the much-needed ‘sixth bowler.’
There’s plenty for the selectors to weigh up.
The option of the three fast bowlers playing together may work sometimes, but not all the time, and certainly not at a World Cup.
Nice as it is to have them, one of them will have to be sacrificed in order to add batting depth and balance to the starting team.
Meanwhile, the International Cricket Council confirmed yesterday that the men’s T20 World Cup will be held in United Arab Emirates and Oman later this year.
India was initially scheduled to host the tournament, but the escalation of the Covid-19 pandemic in that country has forced the change.
Matches will take place between the Dubai International Stadium, Sheikh Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi and the Sharjah Stadium.
The Oman Cricket Academy ground will host the pre-tournament qualifier, from which six teams will earn berths for the tournament.
The competition will run from October 17 to November 14.