A few allrounders and at least six bowling options are what South Africa needs to get their team balance right, according to former captain Faf du Plessis.
“That’s a challenge that we are facing right now,” du Plessis said, after the five-wicket defeat to England in the first T20I. “We’ve lost Andile [Phehlukwayo] and Dwaine [Pretorius] which fills the role of a sixth bowler and we need six bowling options because if one guy goes on the day, it puts you under pressure. But with the balance of our squad, it doesn’t look like it’s possible to go for a six-man bowling attack. That’s why the allrounder plays such a crucial role in balancing the side.”
South Africa went into the series opener with six specialist batsmen, four frontline bowlers and a spin-bowling allrounder in debutant George Linde. Ideally, they would have also liked to have a seam-bowling allrounder but Dwaine Pretorius has been ruled out of the series with a hamstring injury and Andile Phehlukwayo was unavailable for selection. That meant that when Quinton de Kock was looking for some variety, he turned to Heinrich Klaasen’s part-time offspin.
Klaasen’s solitary over cost 14 runs, which shifted momentum towards England, but it was Beuran Hendricks’ 28-run over that sealed England’s win. Du Plessis cautioned against reading too much into de Kock’s decision to try something different, or into Hendricks’ expensive over, believing both would bounce back.
“My experience tells me that in the game of T20 cricket, someone is going to go on the night. I wouldn’t look too much into it if one guy goes for runs,” he said. “That’s the nature of the beast playing T20 cricket and I wouldn’t judge him too harshly. Tonight wasn’t his night.”
Asked if selection could have been different and Anrich Nortje, who lit up the IPL alongside Rabada, could have played as well, du Plessis indicated it was difficult to fit Nortje in, perhaps due to transformation targets.
“It’s tough on Anrich [because] it’s a balancing act with our team. We’ve got to try and get that balance right. He was on the short side of it today,” du Plessis said. “But he is bowling really well so we are expecting him to make inroads soon.”
“My role in working with Quinny and the bowlers is that it’s important for me to give advice, talk to the bowlers and make sure there is clarity in their plans”
Faf du Plessis is no longer captain but still has a leadership role
South Africa also have the option of including Jon-Jon Smuts, a top-order batsmen who bowls left-arm spin – though that is a similar option to Linde – or changing up their batting line-up to accommodate for Reeza Hendricks, who has not bowled in T20s. It is not clear if Phehlukwayo will be available for the next match, leaving South Africa with de Kock to solve things as he seeks to balance the side.
But du Plessis is there to help. Although he has relinquished the leadership, as the senior-most player in the side, du Plessis still sees himself as having a role to play in developing the next generation. That was evident when he led some of the on-field consultations, especially towards the end of the England innings.
“It’s important for my own role in the team to assist and help but I don’t look to interfere too much,” he said. “It’s great for Quinny to have the opportunity to learn about field placings and angles. My role in working with Quinny and the bowlers is that it’s important for me to give advice, talk to the bowlers and make sure there is clarity in their plans.”
Du Plessis also has a job to do with the bat and he did that in this match, where he top-scored with 58, picking up from where he left off as the leading run-maker for the Chennai Super Kings at the IPL. Not only did his knock change the tempo of the South African innings but it showed his intent to keep playing, for as long as he can.
“I had a really good six months off and had some time to reflect and put a lot of time into getting myself as fit and mentally strong as I can be,” du Plessis said. “I still feel like I have a lot left and I am not anywhere close to thinking I am stopping playing cricket. It showed in the IPL: I am moving around well, and I’m switched on and hungry for every ball. I am going to try and push on for as long as I can.”
Recent Match Report – Yorkshire vs Leics North Group 2021
Yorkshire given scare in defence of massive 240 in aggregate record for Blast
Yorkshire 240 for 4 (Bairstow 82, Lyth 51, Brook 48*) beat Leicestershire 222 for 8 (Inglis 82, Willey 3-44) by 18 runs
Leicestershire, 146 for 3 in the 13th over with opener Inglis unbeaten, later slipped to a fourth straight North Group defeat. But Inglis ensured they fought to the death at 222 for 8.
This was Yorkshire’s second win in three North Group games, and 462 runs combined equals the Blast record.
The triumph was built on a 113 opening partnership in 10.1 overs between Bairstow and Lyth, with further half-century stands for the third and fifth wickets.
On a glorious Leeds evening, there were 29 sixes hit.
Each of the Foxes six-man attack was taken to task after home captain Willey had won his side’s 10th toss in 11 in all cricket in 2021.
Afghanistan seamer Naveen-ul-Haq claimed two wickets, getting Willey and Bairstow caught in the deep in the 17th over. That left Yorkshire at 189 for four.
Fellow quick Gavin Griffiths had a night to forget, conceding 60 in three overs, as Bairstow set the tone, giving the Foxes fielders little chance with his power.
Leicestershire’s chase was always going to be a mountainous task. But that suited the dashing style of 26-year-old opener Inglis, who emigrated to Perth just before turning 15.
Having lost Scott Steel to Willey in the first over, Inglis and Arron Lilley took their side to 50 for 1 after only 3.4 overs to threaten a miracle.
Thompson had Ackermann caught in the deep and then brilliantly caught former under 11s team-mate Inglis one-handed at deep cover off Matthew Fisher.
That left 95 needed off 7.3 overs with six wickets left.
Ben Mike’s 31 helped the target to 31 off two overs and 23 off the last – with three wickets in hand. But Willey comfortably defended that and finished with 3 for 44.
Recent Match Report – Essex vs Sussex South Group 2021
Skipper slams 75 from 44 to help make short work of small chase
Sussex 130 for 3 (Wright 75) beat Essex 128 for 8 (Garton 3-31) by seven wickets
The Blast’s all-time leading run-scorer missed the opening two rounds after splitting the webbing in his hand while practising fielding on the eve of the competition. But he made up for lost time by bringing up his fifty in 33 deliveries as Sussex chased down Essex’s below-par 128 for eight with 36 balls to spare.
Wright looked at home right from the start, with boundaries from his second and third deliveries – two of eight fours.
Opening partner Phil Salt earned a life when he bludgeoned a full toss to mid-on, only to earn a reprieve for the umpire to judge the ball to have been above waist-height, much to Simon Harmer’s chagrin. Salt was run out for 13, after putting on 54 with Wright before Travis Head added 60 together with the skipper.
Wright continued to his 26th Blast half-century, going past 8000 T20 career runs, with a pair of straight sixes and another over cow corner. He departed with six still needed but Delray Rawlins clattered the winning runs over long-off soon after.
Wright’s day had started perfectly as he won the toss and stuck the hosts in – although Will Buttleman struck successive sixes in the fourth over. On a used hybrid pitch, scoring proved difficult for Essex with only Buttleman, Michael Pepper and Jimmy Neesham’s strike rates topping 100, for those who reached double figures.
The strain on scoring was exemplified by the last over of the Powerplay, which saw just one run, as Paul Walter struggled to lay a bat on Chris Jordan – the run rate throughout the innings hovering just below seven an over.
To add to the Eagles’ woes, wickets were a regular occurrence. Tom Westley and Buttleman fell in the Powerplay – the former picking out deep midwicket off George Garton and the latter slapping a Tymal Mills slower ball to cover.
Walter was stumped, Ryan ten Doeschate clubbed old pal Ravi Bopara to long off, Pepper – having scored 38 off 25 balls – drilled to extra cover, Harmer miscued to midwicket, Jack Plom skied to mid-off and Neesham was comprehensively bowled.
Garton ended up with 3 for 31, with Mills, Jordan and Bopara all going at under a run-a-ball.
Recent Match Report – Hampshire vs Middlesex South Group 2021
Imposing Hampshire target overhauled with two balls to spare in outground thriller
Middlesex 217 for 7 (Cracknell 77, Simpson 62) beat Hampshire 215 for 6 (Short 48, McManus 47, Weatherley 41) by three wickets with two balls to spare
Middlesex pulled off their second highest T20 chase – by three wickets with two balls to spare – in a memorable match at Radlett which saw the next generation take charge of a county going through a difficult transition, and leave another ailing T20 side, Hampshire, fearing that they don’t seem to be in much of a transition at all.
Radlett is about as far away from the ECB’s vision of T20 cricket as it is possible to be. The dream is maximum revenue from large stadia, a football-style atmosphere and a sense of theatre that delights a TV audience. Start an overly loud, alcohol-fuelled chant at Radlett and you may be blackballed from the golf club or become the subject of gossip in the Ladies Circle.
Hampshire’s first 200-plus total for three years was eminently chaseable in perfect batting conditions. But patently not by Middlesex, most of their supporters would have suggested. At 30 for 3, with Morgan trudging off, having reached at a very wide one to hole out at deep backward point, a philosophical kind of pessimism had taken hold.
Radlett is an idyllic county ground: a good batting surface, a ground lined by trees and hedges, and a convivial crowd adopting a Country Show attitude to any minor privations in the marquees and the portable toilets. They were allowed not far short of 1,000 spectators which is roughly the same as some of the smaller county grounds, which have stands and things. All to do with pinch points apparently.
They were on the verge of a colossal Powerplay with 68 garnered from the first five overs and Vince and D’Arcy Short in a blissful world where they could do much as they pleased. With Middlesex lacking five pace bowlers because of injury or (in the case of Tom Helm) recovery from Covid-19, a colossal score looked on the cards.
Then came Cullen. Three off the first over; Vince’s head-high hook falling to deep backward square in his next. In his final over, he twice troubled Hampshire’s ex-Middlesex man, James Fuller, twice for pace, the first of them gloved to third man.
Cullen, a former England U19, has played for Middlesex since the U10s, and both player and club are beginning to reap the reward of years of endeavour. Pacey, with a strong action, he can reputedly swing the ball in four-day cricket, but here, he adapted intelligently and hit the pitch. The assessment of Middlesex’s director of cricket, Angus Fraser, that he “bowls like a grown man” could not have been more apparent.
Green’s night did not begin well. He averages below seven runs an over in a career spanning more than 70 matches, making him beloved of T20 aficionados, and he was also on the back of a five-for against Kent, with four wickets taken in the final over. He was Middlesex’s most expensive bowler, leaking 55 from four overs as his method of pushing it fast and wide across the right-hander brought no dividends.
Middlesex missed chances in the field, and a succession of shots escaped clawing fingers. The most damaging, in more than one sense, was Sowter’s drop of Dawson, running in from deep backward square, his right ankle sprained in the process. But not damaged enough for him to play a part in Middlesex’s uplifting victory.
David Hopps writes on county cricket for ESPNcricinfo @davidkhopps
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