Cape Town – South Africa have been served a
sharp, yet timely reminder by old enemies Australia that they need to end their
intransigence and field all of their most proven batting guns in the top four
at the ICC World Twenty20.
There is this inexplicable belief in the
camp, it seems, that they can only play three of the pedigreed quartet of
captain Faf du Plessis, Hashim Amla, AB de Villiers and Quinton de Kock in any
one game, on the dubious grounds that all are considered “top three”
Well, the time has come to simply swell that
theory to a top four instead and perhaps decide, based on anticipated
conditions per venue in India, in which order to station them even if stability
and consistency in the positioning of individuals tends to be a desirable state
The just-completed, exciting three-match
KFC Twenty20 bilateral series, in which those wily Aussies came from 1-0 down
to justly snatch the spoils 2-1, only hammered home the fact that this format
is increasingly a batsman’s game – and that the very cream of your personnel in
that department thus need to be given the opportunity to face as many
deliveries as possible.
Pitches will be quite considerably
different on the Subcontinent over the next few weeks, although likely to be no
less slanted toward spectacular, sometimes outrageous stroke-play than the ones
just played on around South Africa, culminating with Wednesday’s six-wicket
triumph by Australia with four balls to spare at PPC Newlands.
Knowing exactly what constitutes a
defendable total by the side taking first strike on run-friendly tracks becomes
increasingly impossible in T20 these days, and it was significant that all
three matches were won by the side chasing rather than setting.
In the second clash at the Wanderers, the
Proteas probably believed that their juggernaut 204 for seven would be too hot
for the Aussies to handle, only to be beaten off the final delivery of the
Similarly in the latest, deciding contest,
the hosts would have “turned” rightly sensing that their 178 for four would be
enough, as it represented the highest total batting first in a T20
international day/nighter at the ground.
A score that high had never previously beenchased
down successfully at Newlands whether by day or night … yet once again the Australians
paid scant regard to expectation or statistical history to set a new landmark
The Aussies, who don’t much prioritise the
T20 format until global tournaments come around, confirmed that they should be
tough nuts to crack all over again at the latest major ICC limited-overs
For South Africa, meanwhile, the
mini-discomfort of the last four days or so is no major train smash and perhaps
even a blessing, allowing for some constructive introspection – they still have
most of the hallmarks of a quality T20 side, and a rosy recent record in Asia.
As had been rumoured in the lead-up at
Newlands, the Proteas chose to rest potentially their most destructive batsman,
De Villiers, allowing a troublesome shoulder some additional time to mend ahead
of the major business looming.
What that step did was facilitate a recall
to the top of the order, for the first time in the series, for the
indefatigable Amla, as he played his 33rd T20 international not far
short of his 33rd birthday at the end of the month.
By blasting an unbeaten 97 at a smoking
strike rate of 156, the right-hander, who showed occasional Viv Richards-like
cavalier and nonchalant spirit, made it mightily difficult for anyone to
contemplate him not playing in key fixtures at the WT20.
It was easily his bulkiest knock in the
format, and the fact that it came as an immediate follow-up to his previous
personal best (69 not out against England at the Wanderers very recently) in
his last innings, tells you everything about his progress as a dominator in the
T20 landscape and keenness to contribute fulsomely in India shortly.
Opening partner De Kock did little wrong,
either, as they propelled South Africa to 47 for one in only four overs before
the baby-faced left-hander’s exit for 25 off 13 balls.
As for the skipper Du Plessis, he failed at
No 3 this time, but had already registered 40 and 79 respectively in the
series, so still has excellent claims for staying in his favoured berth.
Where the Proteas lost crucial ground,
however, was with the less streetwise Rilee Rossouw’s battle in the No 4 spot
to get a decent head of steam: his 16 runs used up 21 pretty costly deliveries
as the menacing start was significantly reined in.
Surely, now, the situation cries out for De
Villiers to simply come back into the equation at the expense of the Free
Stater, wherever it is decided he should specifically operate among the top
The Proteas have one or two bowling
conundrums to chew on after successive failures to defend big totals, but I’d
suggest that at the very least their specialist top six batting line-up is cast
in stone: the four heavyweight players already discussed, plus David Miller and
JP Duminy …
our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing