ICC World Twenty20

Rilee, Farhaan in SA shootout

2016-03-23 14:22
Farhaan Behardien (Gallo Images)

Cape Town – Unless they are prepared to risk a particularly lengthy tail, the Proteas’ strategists will have to decide between big-hitting Rilee Rossouw or the more scurrying, nudging Farhaan Behardien as the batting replacement for injured JP Duminy on Friday.

The important No 5 slot is vacant for the almost certainly must-win ICC World Twenty20 fixture against West Indies at Nagpur (16:00 SA time) following the confirmation that Duminy’s hamstring strain will inconveniently rule him out of the clash; he is probably a long shot for the closing group game against Sri Lanka on Monday as well.

It would be extremely risky, on a pitch known for its generous turn and abrasiveness which tend to result in lower totals than at many other grounds in India, for South Africa to simply promote David Miller to No 5 – from his current intended finishing-type berth at six – and field both bowling all-rounders David Wiese and Chris Morris at Nos 6 and 7 respectively with a fluffy tail thereafter comprising four specialist bowlers.

A far likelier scenario, you have to imagine, is summoning one of the available extra batsmen in the party – Rossouw and Behardien – to fill the specific hole, leaving Miller where he is, Morris probably the favourite to take guard at seven and the most suitable four frontline bowlers for the prevailing conditions on Friday being chosen from there, regardless of batting proficiency or otherwise.

There is every chance left-arm spinner Aaron Phangiso is going to join first-choice tweaker Imran Tahir in the attack on the expected near-dustbowl, so Wiese, who is struggling to be economical on the bowling front at present, could be the most in danger among the incumbent XI of losing out against the unbeaten, group-leading Windies.

Even that is not a foregone conclusion, however, given that the lanky Wiese’s mix-it-up skills are often better suited to slower, more gripping tracks than the firm, true one the Proteas operated on against both England and Afghanistan in Mumbai.

But Rossouw v Behardien for a stand-in spot amongst the batting specialists - Duminy had been in decent touch - seems the most pressing quandary for the brains trust.

Key to the poser will be what sort of batsman they feel best suits requirements, as neither is a genuinely like-for-like replacement for the Cape Cobras left-hander, whose part-time off-spin may also be missed.

What makes Duminy (all-time leading runs-scorer for the country in T20 internationals, and fifth-highest in global history) such a valuable element in the format is the way he pushes the ball around initially in his innings, often to the benefit of a well-settled “blaster” at the other end, and then shows the capacity to take over as senior figure and build up to a stroke-playing crescendo himself.

In the case of Rossouw, his instincts are to go hard, if you like, as quickly as possible and if he gets his eye in he can be a proper match-winner as his strike rate almost certainly won’t be slow (he has scored 327 T20 international runs from 14 appearances at tidy 32.70, strike rate 139).

Still, he can be a fitful limited-overs factor for South Africa, across both shorter-form arenas, and his skills are perhaps best suited to pitches with healthy “come-on”.

As if to fight that idea, though, Rossouw did shine in his two last T20 games in Subcontinental conditions for the Proteas, scoring a brisk 31 not out and unbeaten 19 in the 2-0 mini-series triumph in Bangladesh in mid-2015.

Behardien, meanwhile, is a much-maligned fellow with a pretty swollen 65 caps for the national cause between the ODI and T20 landscapes but stubbornly innocuous statistical evidence to suggest he has ever really deserved that many opportunities.

He is an undoubtedly clever, highly polished franchise-level one-day cricketer, given his broader package which includes some capacity to plug an end with his benign medium-pacers and healthy mobility and ability as a fielder.

It is just that at international level he somehow labours rather more often than he doesn’t to show that he is either a useful “bit” or “piece” to the cause, never mind the more ideal both.

All too irregularly, he can manage to look a million dollars for a few pleasing minutes, with some intelligent nudging and gliding combined with volleys of assaults on the boundary ropes.

In T20 internationals, he has batted 17 times, for 232 runs at 23.20 and unremarkable strike rate of 114 with a top score of 36.

You have to ask: are those figures good enough to suggest he can fill in for the weighty-stats qualities of Duminy at the crease?

Maybe you should overlook the bowling possibilities he brings, too …. Behardien, rightly or wrongly, has only bowled 12 miserly deliveries for the Proteas in 24 T20 appearances, hardly suggesting there is any real faith in him as a “bowler six” option.

A personal tendency would be to prefer Rossouw, warts and all, for Friday’s do-or-die task …

*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing


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