Rudolph's SA T20 push
Cape Town - His is not the most natural name you roll off your lips, perhaps, in terms of possible Twenty20 international duty for South Africa.
But what price Jacques Rudolph suddenly re-entering the equation at that level later this summer?
The experienced Titans left-hander has been one of the batting stars of the first few rounds of matches in the Champions League T20 competition, and looks increasingly at ease in the format for someone more recently associated with the vastly differing demands of Test activity.
Rudolph has always been a relatively “classical” stroke-player, if you like, as evidenced by his involvement in 46 Test matches for the Proteas over a nine-year period (he also sports 45 caps in one-day internationals).
He is seldom mentioned in the same breath as people like Chris Gayle, David Warner and Herschelle Gibbs for boundary-seeking relish and crowd-pleasing audacity in cricket’s most abbreviated format.
But the 31-year-old has only ever been given an opportunity in one T20 international, against Australia at Brisbane back in early 2006 - for the record, he went to the crease in the hardly ideal (for him) slot of No 7 and duly registered six not out off seven balls in a heavy loss for South Africa.
Busy trying to re-establish himself as a regular once more in the Test side - he played a full part in the 2-0 series triumph in England and goes to Australia shortly - a little curveball of late has been his enterprise and efficiency at T20 level for the Titans.
The Centurion-based side boast an encouraging two wins from as many outings in the CLT20, and Rudolph has been at the forefront each time.
First he smashed a career-best 83 not out off 59 balls against the Perth Scorchers before his appreciative home crowd on Saturday, at a strike rate of 140 and including nine fours and three sixes.
He followed it up with an almost as fluent 63 off 56 deliveries against Auckland in Durban on Wednesday; it was also the second time that the opening alliance of Rudolph and Henry Davids had blossomed.
Rudolph’s Twenty20 career at franchise level is beginning to swell quite nicely in statistical terms: in 71 knocks in this brand of the game he has assembled 1976 runs at an average of 33.49 and decent strike rate of 117.
As well as he has played various textbook strokes, Rudolph has also shown an increasing willingness to engage the reverse sweep to wreak handy havoc with field placings.
The Titans are next in action against the already-eliminated Kolkata Knight Riders at Newlands on Sunday, where he gets the chance to confirm his T20 fettle against an attack that might include such accomplished players as compatriot Jacques Kallis, the still nippy Brett Lee, Indian international seamer Lakshmipathy Balaji and the highly-rated West Indian off-spinner Sunil Narine.
The Proteas do not play any limited-overs fare at all on their looming tour of Australia, but Rudolph can use the remainder of this tournament, nevertheless, to force the national selectors into some “mental notes” for when they do play T20 internationals against both mid-summer guests to our shores, New Zealand and Pakistan.
South Africa are less than settled at the top of the order, where Richard Levi’s stocks have been deteriorating in recent weeks, which is something Rudolph will hardly be oblivious to ...*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing