T20 Challenge

In-form 'Fudgie' showing his class

2016-12-01 12:00
Farhaan Behardien (Gallo)

Cape Town - Farhaan Behardien is not getting any younger. 

That may sound harsh on the surface, but at 33 he will know better than anyone that he doesn't have a lifetime of international cricket left in him. 

Behardien has long been one of the biggest enigmas in the Proteas set-up in both the T20 and ODI formats, having notched up 51 ODIs since his debut in 2013 and 25 T20Is since 2012. 

Not everybody's cup of tea, 'Fudgie' has come in for some harsh criticism over the years, and a look at his numbers helps explain why. 

He has recorded just six half-centuries in ODI cricket and his average only recently crept above 30. In T20Is, meanwhile, he averages 23.2 with a highest score of 36

It's safe to say that Behardien's international career has not blown anyone away, but it has by no means been a failure either, with some incredibly useful knocks coming to mind. 

Behardien's international career, at this stage, is just a bit unforgettable and he certainly hasn't lived up to his potential - yet.

Despite that, Behardien remains one of those players who, when he gets it right, looks as good as anyone. 

With the emphasis on scoring big at the back end of an innings, Behardien is often expected to come in and clear the ropes and his time at the crease can be limited as a result. 

But, as this year's T20 Challenge has shown so far, his game is about so much more than that. 

While he does possess the physical power to hit maximums with ease, Behardien also has the tactical and mental nous to play long, crafty innings. 

He is the leading run scorer in this year's T20 Challenge, and he was at it again in a knock of 72* (40b, 9x4, 2x6) in a losing cause for the Titans against the Dolphins in Durban on Wednesday night. 

It leaves Behardien with 263 runs for the tournament at a ridiculous strike-rate of 180.13 - higher than any of the other top 10 run scorers in the competition. 

Unfortunately, Wednesday night's match at Kingsmead was not televised. 

The knock that has best illustrated Behardien's class in the competition came in Bloemfontein back on November 20, also against the Dolphins. 

The Mangaung Oval is a big ground, and when Behardien came to the wicket he immediately began to turn ones into twos when the batsmen around him looked to find the fence. 

Almost effortlessly, Behardien nudged it around the ground while putting the bad balls away and all of a sudden he was 65* (33b, 1x4, 4x6), having shared a 93-run stand with Heino Kuhn. 

That simple approach - rotate the strike and punish the rubbish - has been Behardien's mantra in each of the 6 knocks he has had so far in the competition. 

These are Behardien's scores in the T20 Challenge (balls faced in brackets): 37* (17), 22* (16), 30 (18), 65* (33), 37* (22), 72* (40). 

They may not seem that overwhelming, but anybody who has actually watched him over the last few weeks would see that Behardien has almost been in a league of his own. 

He has looked confident, his running between the wickets has been exemplary, he has every shot in the book and he has timed the pants off almost everything he has faced. 

When he is in this touch, having him in the limited overs set-up seems a no-brainer. 

At the moment, though, Behardien finds himself very much on the fringes of both the ODI and T20I sides. 

He played in three of the five ODIs in the recently completed 5-0 thrashing of Australia on home soil, but the resurgence of David Miller, the continued backing of JP Duminy and the explosiveness of Rilee Rossouw make it a rather congested middle order at the moment.

Throw in the ever-improving Andile Phehlukwayo, Dwaine Pretorius, Chris Morris and Wayne Parnell and the Proteas have a number of all-rounders more than capable with the bat. 

It suggests that Behardien has a real battle on his hands if he is to command a regular place in the side, but he is certainly on the right track. 

The Proteas play three T20Is and five ODIs against Sri Lanka this summer, following a three-match Test series. 

Behardien has surely done enough to be included in both of those limited overs squads, but he will desperately want to transfer his domestic form onto the international stage this time around. 

The ICC Champions Trophy looms in June next year, and for Behardien it could very well be his final chance to be a part of something seriously special in Proteas colours. 

The way he is batting now, it is easy to see why the national selectors have backed him for so long ... 


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