Cape Town – It is unlikely that Aaron Phangiso
was intended as an immediate front-line element of their arsenal for the ICC
World Twenty20 … but that may now have to be revisited by South Africa in a bit
of a hurry.
Fancied host nation India’s low-scoring humbling
at the hands of New Zealand in the first match of the tournament-proper at
Nagpur on Tuesday -- on a particularly gripping, turning track widely not
considered ideal for this format of the game – will have sent a ripple or two
through all camps at the event.
Whilst there is no certainty at all that
conditions will be that challenging for crisp stroke-play at other venues, and
you can usually expect a few contrasting belters on the Subcontinent, the fact
that spinners played such a busy role in the opener will not have escaped other
It may simply have been a case of India
falling into their own, very specialised intended trap at Nagpur -- something
that may not now be repeated by them as they fight to find a way back in Group
But the very fact that slow bowlers (either
specialist or part-time) accounted for as many as 23 of 38.1 overs used in the
contest – 12 by India, 11 by the Black Caps and in most cases with really
telling effect – suggests that there will be other fixtures where spin plays a
more influential role than may even have been assumed pre-tournament.
The Proteas, in recent times, have tended
to pin their faith largely on a seam attack, plus the known wiles of ace
leg-spinner Imran Tahir, often in the knowledge that many of the quicker men
have the necessary skills and nous to be effective on sluggish surfaces.
They begin their campaign against England
at the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai on Friday (16:00 SA time) and may be just a
little more wary now of fielding a bowling unit that contains only Tahir for
front-line spin, with risky back-up from the fading force that is occasional
off-spinner JP Duminy.
Left-handed batsman Duminy has not bowled a
full four-over quota in any the last seven T20 internationals he has played in,
and only bowled five largely expensive overs in total, since last shining as a
bowler in the victorious mini-series in Bangladesh in mid-2015.
If faith in the diminutive Capetonian’s abilities
on that front remains cautious at best, then perhaps Phangiso, only recently
cleared to resume his career after being pulled up over concerns with his
action, is going to see more action over the next couple of weeks than
The 32-year-old from Garankuwa has only
played nine T20 internationals thus far for the Proteas (though he sports a
healthier 16 one-day international caps) and the last was in a defeat to New
Zealand at Centurion in August last year.
You might say he is more renowned for being
a notably peripheral figure, overwhelmingly confined to the “bench” whenever
selected for the country at major ICC limited-overs tournaments of any kind.
Phangiso only sports one prior appearance
during an ICC multi-national event – against Pakistan at Edgbaston in the
Champions Trophy of 2013 – and there was a bit of a stink, understandably, over
the fact that he did not get a gig at all during the 2015 World Cup in
Australia and New Zealand.
That characteristic could be on the brink
of changing for the better for him, simultaneously acting as a fillip, you
would hope, for a player who has experienced several forms of personal turmoil
in recent months.
Placing him (and Duminy) under some
additional pressure, however, is the view this week of at least one independent
critic, former England captain Michael Vaughan, that South Africa’s depth – or
lack thereof – beyond Tahir in the spinning department could be their key
weakness at the WT20 despite plentiful strengths in other areas.
our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing