World T20: Here’s SA’s top XI

2014-03-17 13:01
AB de Villiers (AP)
Cape Town – South Africa should show their hand in terms of team make-up for the tournament-proper when they play successive warm-up matches for the ICC World Twenty20 on Tuesday and Wednesday.

They are in action against Bangladesh A and the full Pakistan team respectively at Fatullah, with a desperate need to make maximum use of the opportunity to acclimatise to Bangladeshi conditions ahead of their opener against Sri Lanka on Saturday (Chittagong, 11:30 SA time).

Unless there is an unconventional plan in the making – and two matches before a major event seems too late to still be experimenting, doesn’t it? -- it makes sense for them to field on both occasions all or virtually all of the players intended to tackle the highly-rated ‘Lankans.

The 15-man SA squad is notably bowling-heavy, so the batting line-up is reasonably easy to predict even if not necessarily the order in which they will operate – key stroke-player AB de Villiers batted at five in the heavy defeat to Australia at Centurion and there is a rightful clamour for him to advance either one or two slots for maximum crease-occupation potential.

Whatever the decision about De Villiers’s stationing, the cream of the Proteas’ batting is fairly obvious.

I would venture that the only other question mark is whether to play Albie Morkel as an extra finisher around the No 7 slot, or fit in slightly more of a “specialist” batsman like Farhaan Behardien.

The former is a likelier match-winner – a very strong consideration in the T20 landscape – for spectacular hitting ability, but his second suit, bowling, remains an area of some vulnerability: he was bashed about for 26 runs in two overs against the Aussies the other night.

Behardien is perhaps under-rated as a “dibbly-dob” medium-pacer on slow, gripping surfaces where batsmen cannot exploit pace onto the blade, and although he has not yet bowled at all in 11 T20 internationals, his ODI stats are fairly decent.

He has an economy rate of 4.96 from seven bowling opportunities in the 50-overs environment for South Africa, and interestingly his best figures are three for 19 from six overs against the very Sri Lanka in Pallekele last year.

But unless smoke signals are misleading, it appears the Proteas brains trust are pretty keen to ease the “Miracle Man” onus on David Miller by having the experienced Morkel as extra security for six-hitting prowess at an advanced stage of South Africa’s knocks.

Although there have still been some elements of doubt surrounding the ability of stalwart strike factors Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel to operate at full tilt after recent niggles, if they are given confident green lights to front up, the whole attack should be reasonably self-explanatory too.

Unless pitches look like being absolutely savage turners (bringing Aaron Phangiso into consideration), Steyn and Morkel will be supported by all-rounder Wayne Parnell for left-arm variety in the seam department, with Imran Tahir and JP Duminy capable of eating up eight overs of spin between them, and reserve bowling options coming from the older Morkel brother and possibly captain Faf du Plessis if he feels up to the occasional over or two of his essentially part-time “leggies”.

Lonwabo Tsotsobe? The lanky 30-year-old has shown many times before that he can be lethal upfront in both limited-overs formats for the Proteas when conditions suit his bowling, but the slow and probably low Bangladeshi strips will not offer him the bounce he badly needs.

In addition, he was poor in successive T20 outings against Australia recently, and remains a liability, sadly, for mobility and general consistency in the field.

The rookie Beuran Hendricks had an awkward, albeit brief baptism during the Aussie mini-series and possibly tried just a bit too hard to “mix it up”, to his statistical detriment.
But he also showed signs of temperamental steel under duress and it would be extremely foolish to write him off quickly – that fabulous domestic T20 campaign for the Cape Cobras was no fluke.

Even so, inexperience could count against him in the first couple of games; maybe his best chance of a tournament crack will come in the Proteas’ match against a yet-to-be-named minnow qualifier on Thursday,March 27.

This will probably be the Proteas’ side at the outset of the tournament, in my recommended batting order: Hashim Amla, Quinton de Kock, AB de Villiers, Faf du Plessis (capt), JP Duminy, David Miller, Albie Morkel, Wayne Parnell, Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel, Imran Tahir.

The remaining squad members are Behardien, who is perhaps the closest to breaking into the “first team” immediately, Tsotsobe, Hendricks and Phangiso.

*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing

Read more on:    proteas  |  ab de villiers  |  cricket

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