T20: Proteas light on off-spin?
Cape Town - South Africa will probably find themselves short on an ingredient that has generally served them well when they face New Zealand in three Twenty20 internationals shortly: off-spin.
Both at T20 and one-day international level, the Proteas have enjoyed in recent times the variety offered - albeit particularly on slower, turning tracks - by a frontline spin arsenal featuring “offie” Johan Botha and the left-arm fare of Robin Peterson
, supplemented by the further, often under-rated off-spin of middle-order batsman JP Duminy
But Duminy is a long-term injury casualty who will not see any international activity on home soil this season, so that element has been automatically lost.
Some reports on Tuesday suggested that Andrew Hudson’s SA selection panel might still consider the claims of Botha, who now leads South Australia in all formats of the game Down Under on a two-year deal, before they announce a T20 squad on Thursday to face the Black Caps.
The wily 30-year-old is an interesting case because he has not officially retired from international cricket, despite his faraway location in the southern hemisphere summer clearly now counting against him to a great extent.
Sport24 has since established from an impeccable source that a call-up for Botha is “unlikely”.
The former Warriors stalwart, who has represented South Africa - often with aplomb - in 118 limited-overs fixtures, is in the thick of commitments for Adelaide Strikers in the T20 Big Bash League.
They opened their campaign on Sunday with a comfortable victory over Perth Scorchers (the team compatriot Herschelle Gibbs
represents) at the WACA, Botha bowling a typically economical spell of 4-0-23-1 and being five not out when the six-wicket win was achieved.
That tournament is ongoing to January 19, when the final is played, so any interruption by skipper Botha to resurrect his Proteas career in the interim would be a pretty complicated exercise.
South Africa play the three T20 games against New Zealand on December 21 (Durban), December 23 (East London) and December 26 (Port Elizabeth).
Incumbent player Peterson, who also successfully restarted his Test career after a lengthy absence in the decisive encounter against Australia at Perth recently, seems a virtual certainty to be included in the squad, and that probably leaves room for a shootout between rookie Aaron Phangiso
of the Lions and the more experienced Titans competitor Roelof van der Merwe for an extra spin slot.
Van der Merwe has been in decent form in the domestic One-Day Cup 50-overs competition, and also boasts 13 prior caps for the Proteas in each of the T20 and ODI folds - though his last appearance for his country came in mid-2010.
He also has the edge for swashbuckling ability with the bat, although he retains a penchant for resorting a tad too often to pure slogging, which can lead to his unnecessary demise.
Phangiso, however, has starred for a Lions team that is making fine strides as both a T20 and 50-overs force and few could quibble if he is offered a Proteas debut against the Black Caps.
The only drawback, perhaps, is that all of Peterson, Van der Merwe and Phangiso are left-armers, robbing South Africa of the ability to take the ball “the other way” in the slow-bowling department.*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing