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
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
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 www.supersport.com 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
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.
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