Pakistan v SA

Proteas: 7 games to fine-tune

2013-11-12 23:08
Proteas (AFP)

Cape Town - South Africa have seven matches in which to get their Twenty20 act as slick and cohesive as possible before the next quest for elusive ICC silverware.

The Proteas, starting in Dubai on Wednesday (18:00 SA time), have two away tussles with Pakistan, two against the same foes at home almost immediately afterwards, and then a further three against the visiting Australians much later in the summer.

Shortly after that, they are off to Bangladesh for the fifth edition of the ICC World Twenty20 tournament in March, an event they have not yet even managed to be losing finalists at, albeit it that it provides a further opportunity to get that infernal major-tournament monkey off their backs.

With a bit of luck, the much-needed sense of optimism suddenly permeating their ODI side, following the unexpectedly one-sided 4-1 disposal of the Pakistanis in the UAE, will transfer itself into the T20 camp.

South Africa have already been in a slightly better space anyway at T20 level: they may only be ranked fifth on the planet, a situation that mirrors their ODI status, but can at least boast that in their last series they beat top-ranked Sri Lanka 2-1 on their own demanding terrain earlier this year.

Many of the personnel who have revelled in the 50-overs triumph over the Pakistanis remain on board for the short T20 portion (Wednesday and then again on Friday), although there will be possible infusions to the XI in one or both matches for the likes of Henry Davids, Aaron Phangiso and David Wiese.

The mini-series is an opportunity for the Proteas to avenge the 1-0 reverse to the very Pakistan the last time they met at T20 level in South Africa last summer – the Kingsmead game was washed out and the tourists trounced South Africa by 95 runs at Centurion.

No doubt coach Russell Domingo and company will be keen for in-form customers like AB de Villiers, Quinton de Kock, Ryan McLaren and Dale Steyn to carry on where they inspiringly left off in the ODI matches.

This series, though, also provides a chance for people like David Miller and Faf du Plessis to produce weightier performances than they managed in the 50-overs landscape.

Du Plessis is under special pressure to shape up because in eight innings on this tour, across the three international formats, he has only gone past the half-century mark once ... and he is also burdened with the weight of captaincy now.

Commentator and former national skipper Kepler Wessels only cranked up the heat by writing in a column on this week that he is “not comfortable” with the three-captain arrangement for the national team and would have preferred the gradual blossoming of De Villiers’s leadership to extend into this T20 series as well.

In fairness to Du Plessis, he has been batting more productively in T20s than he has in ODIs: a little unusually, he is averaging more (30.30) in the shorter format than the more extended limited-overs one (a worryingly sub-standard 27.55).

Compare this to his old “Affies” pal De Villiers: more predictable stats of 48.86 in the 50-overs arena and 22.34 in T20s.

So ropey with the blade in the ODI series, Pakistan have the opportunity now to draw on the experience, should they wish, of all-rounders like Shoaib Malik and Abdul Razzaq -- and should possibly waste no time in doing so?

This particular series could be the most educative of the three for the South Africans ahead of the ICC jamboree, as it will be on Dubai pitches not dissimilar to what will be experienced in Bangladesh.

They must not waste the opportunity.

*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing


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