Forgotten men seek SA T20 recall

2015-11-24 21:31
Khaya Zondo (Gallo Images)

Cape Town – The chances are reasonably remote that there will be major changes to the Proteas’ T20 squad ahead of the ICC World Twenty20 tournament in India toward the end of the season.

Considering that Faf du Plessis’s team have achieved excellent results in two series on the very Subcontinent this year – 2-0 against each of Bangladesh and hosts India – there are few credible reasons to disturb the mix too markedly.

But that doesn’t mean that the door is completely shut yet to a few outsiders to sneak in from the cold in time for the global get-together, scheduled for March 11 to April 3.

The Proteas also play two home T20 series immediately ahead of it, with two games in the format scheduled during England’s headline summer here, and then a further three against Australia just a few days out from their trek to the World T20.

Should any less-than-entrenched members of the current squad show a worrying lack of form in the next few weeks and months or be laid low by injury, the national selectors will presumably be coaxed into casting their minds back to the Ram Slam T20 Challenge for performances of players they consider to be “bubbling under” and ripe for either maiden call-up – less likely just ahead of a high-pressure world event -- or recall.

So with roughly another third of the domestic competition still ahead, it is important for such candidates to finish it with as much of a flourish as possible.

Of course the undoubted individual star of the tournament thus far has been a certain Kevin Pietersen, ineligible for South Africa.

The snubbed England star has rattled up 364 runs in only five outings in his sentimental return for the Dolphins, at an average of 121.33 and smouldering strike rate of 172; he has disappeared to other globe-trotting commitments but pledged to be back should the currently second-placed KZN-based side make the final.

Although well below him statistically, at least three Proteas players – two of them out of favour right now – have fared consistently well thus far.

SA T20 incumbent Quinton de Kock (Titans) sports the second highest tally of runs with 275 at just under 40, whilst a pair of names to have fallen by the international wayside, Reeza Hendricks (Knights) and Richard Levi (Cobras), have been admirably trusty.

Hendricks had 243 runs at 48.60 at the time of writing, and the burly Levi 226 at 32.28; of the top 10 run-scorers in the competition, the last-named player had the next best strike rate (161) to Pietersen.

Levi retains a bit of a “six or sticks” reputation -- when he truly gets going his team tends to win, mind -- and although he last played for South Africa in December 2012, he is still holder of the record for fastest ever T20 international century (45 balls) achieved against New Zealand at Hamilton.

As for Hendricks, he has had only five opportunities for the Proteas but scored 40-plus twice and he, too, is a mightily clean striker of the ball when on song.

Some of the better bowlers in the Ram Slam so far have included Chris Morris of the Titans (leading wicket-taker with 12 at 18.00) and the Lions’ tenacious left-arm spinner Aaron Phangiso (11 at an exemplary 10.81 and economy rate of just over five).

Morris is part of the latest SA mix at T20 level anyway, but Phangiso’s sprightly form is significant because two leg-spinners in Imran Tahir and Eddie Leie currently hog the specialist tweaking berths at national level – with batsman JP Duminy’s off-spinners added to the brew – but the seasoned scrapper from Garankuwa seems hell-bent on a fresh call-up.

Phangiso may not always be a prolific wicket-taker but he is also routinely difficult to genuinely get stuck into and there is a good case for saying he is under-appreciated by the Proteas.

Debatably not yet given a game, although part of the SA squad, there is some irony in the fact that 25-year-old Dolphins batsman Khaya Zondo is having a miserable old time of it in the domestic competition, to the extent that he looks the player most vulnerable to the axe for the next international series unless he suddenly shapes up.

Zondo sports a sorry run of Ram Slam scores (from most recent) that read: 8, 0, 7, 2, 24 and 2. That is 43 runs from six knocks at an average of seven.

He helps emphasise that the Proteas squad is not necessarily a closed shop ...

*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing


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