Proteas

Proteas need all of ‘big four’!

2016-03-10 07:06
Hashim Amla (Gallo)

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” specialists.

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 of affairs.

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 match.

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 for excellence.

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 jamboree.

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 four?

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 …

*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing

Read more on:    proteas  |  hashim amla  |  cricket
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