Cape Town – The Proteas appear to be making a more conscious
effort to enhance their lower-order batting strike power in Twenty20 cricket.
That much can be deduced from examining a much-altered
squad, announced on Thursday, for the three-match T20 home series against New
South Africa have almost always featured a strong specialist
batting line-up in this format – and also in the more extended form of one-day
competition – but tended to rather “peter out” in recent times as far as
momentum down the order is concerned.
Of course there are plenty of occasions when players lower
in the order aren’t required to any significant extent anyway in the T20 arena,
but just as often they do have a key role to play in keeping the scoring rate
rosy right to the finish.
Here the Proteas have fatally laboured at times in recent
years, since potential “fireworks” players like Lance Klusener, Shaun Pollock,
Johan van der Wath and even Nicky Boje have no longer been available in
limited-overs batting slots from No 7 downwards.
It is why the presence in the latest T20 squad of names like
David Miller and Chris Morris can be considered significant.
All-rounder Albie Morkel, who has too often struggled to
reproduce his stellar Indian Premier League long-handle form for his country,
has ostensibly not been considered for the Black Caps’ challenge because of
injury, but the now 31-year-old had been producing fairly patchy performances
anyway for the Titans in the 50-over One-Day Cup competition and may battle to
regain his place.
Miller is a rather different beast to Morkel, because
although he is every bit as accomplished as a clean, big-distance striker of
the ball, he does not offer the bowling option Morkel does.
But if the Proteas can somehow rebalance their side to still
have enough depth and variety to their bowling arsenal, the KwaZulu-Natalian
may have the chance now to re-establish his credentials as an X-factor batsman
down the order.
The 23-year-old has also not set the world alight with the
willow in the One-Day Cup, it must be said, but in the last English county
season he was a leading light for Yorkshire in the T20 environment (they want
him back in 2013) and the national selectors clearly hope he can find that mojo
in a green and gold shirt.
If South Africa manage to find places for both Morris and
Miller against New Zealand, they certainly ought to be fielding teams with
appropriate “oomph” in the lower-order positions.
Lions favourite Morris, the 25-year-old son of lanky former
Northern Transvaal left-arm spinner Willie, is more renowned as a slippery,
skilful pace bowler of promise, but also goes about his batting duties with
urgency and gusto.
Having suitable depth to the T20 batting order may be
important for the Proteas, because of the sensible decision to rest their rock-like
top-order figures in all formats, Jacques Kallis and Hashim Amla, from this
particular series; it does leave the side much lighter on battle-hardened
The selectors have sent out a healthy signal that players
both young and older can earn first-time recognition through inspired or
consistent displays for their franchises – good examples of this are the
19-year-old left-handed batting and wicketkeeping phenomenon Quinton de Kock
and Stellenbosch-born journeyman batsman Henry Davids.
The last-named player turns 33 in January but he has
produced some highly influential innings for the Titans in the One-Day Cup and
his ability to score at a rollicking rate when the mood grabs him in the T20
format is well documented.
*Follow our chief
writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing