Cape Town – Let’s not kid ourselves … Farhaan Behardien’s hold on a place in the South African one-day international squad remains tenuous.
Those who steadfastly back him would be ill-advised to start poking any “told you so” fingers in the faces of doubters, simply on the basis of the occasional productive innings; this is a player whose statistics struggle for credibility and any sturdy evidence of consistency under the gaze of deep examination.
A generous 43 ODIs, an average that has only just snuck back above 30, and five half-centuries … this is the stuff well shy of legend and it remains an escapable thought that the Proteas might be able to find better occupants for his berth.
I am sure he knows that as much as anyone else does.
But then there’s the other side: on Tuesday in Guyana, Behardien may well have played the most important innings of his SA career and you have to be the most unyielding of bigots – albeit that you are quite permitted to be in the “anti” school of thought over him -- if you think he was somehow lucky or flattered to deceive.
He wasn’t … his cerebral resilience under difficult conditions was the key driver of South Africa’s heartening 47-run triumph over arch-rivals Australia in the triangular Caribbean tournament and at the very least now, let’s offer the liberty of saying the 32-year-old deserves to feel nailed down for the respective next matches on the St Kitts leg against the Aussies again (Saturday) and then West Indies (Wednesday).
The slow, turning pitch had a certain lotto-like hallmark to it and under such circumstances a combination of toughness, gumption and application can be the lone passwords to prosperity in the runs column; we got that mix in jug-loads from the wiry right-hander.
By so smartly defending a skinny total of 189 for nine, there would have been the temptation to give the player-of-the-match award to one of the members of a commendably urgent and cohesive Proteas attack, wisely assembled to favour spin yet with penetrative qualities in the mere two-pronged seam division too.
But it was entirely fitting that it went to Behardien instead, as his patiently-crafted knock of 62 – featuring just five boundaries, such were the pitch hazards – almost certainly made the difference in the unfashionable low-scorer of a fixture.
The Titans stalwart had taken guard at 97 for four in the 23rd over and, apart from keeping the board ticking himself, delicately nursed members of an iffy South African tail, among whom Aaron Phangiso and Kagiso Rabada knuckled down as though defending for their lives in the final session of a quest to save a Test match.
There were times when Behardien transferred his weight beautifully, thinking about pressing forward to spin on the untrustworthy track and then shifting quickly to the back foot if he realised in a flash the ball was going to be an inviting fraction short, and still being able to punch it cleanly and decisively down the ground.
By the time he was dismissed in the final over, the Proteas had certainly given themselves the proverbial “something to bowl at” and they then exposed serious chinks in the Aussie batting armour en route to the revitalising win.
Whatever your thoughts on Behardien’s suitability to a regular place, it is a fact that a few of his more substantial innings for the national cause now have been in circumstances where there has been a procession of dismissals – most often with the Proteas batting first -- at the other end, so he warrants another tick for fortitude after events at Providence Stadium.
When he made his maiden fifty against Pakistan at Centurion in March 2013, the hosts had been a ropey 43 for four as he strode to the wicket, and much the same circumstances were prevalent when he registered his top score to date of 70 against New Zealand at Potchefstroom in August last year: it was 76/4 when he took guard.
The Proteas lost both those clashes, so you could say this was his first significant claw-back innings in a victorious cause, and the fact that it was against the old enemy from Down Under must have made it particularly sweet for “Fudge”.
But it doesn’t mean he’s personally out of the woods, of course.
Will we see the new or the frustratingly fitful, more traditional Behardien when the circus rumbles into St Kitts?
Answer available soon …
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