Being without Faf du Plessis and Kagiso Rabada will give South Africa the opportunity for younger players to gain international experience even as it leaves questions over how they will balance their XI against England.
Du Plessis is being rested for the upcoming ODI series after a period in which he played at the IPL, PSL and in the three T20Is while Rabada has been ruled out with a groin strain. South Africa have also released Pite van Biljon, Bjorn Fortuin and Reeza Hendricks from their 23-man group, leaving them with a squad of 18 and similar questions about their combinations as they had in the T20Is.
At the top of South Africa’s priority list is getting a pace-bowling allrounder into the XI and for that, they need Andile Phehlukwayo to pass a fitness test. With Dwaine Pretorius ruled out of the entire tour with a hamstring concern, Phehlukwayo is the only option for this position but was unavailable for the T20s. He returned to training on Sunday and should slot straight into the one-day side if he gets the green light to play, chiefly because he provides South Africa with an additional bowler.
“If you’ve got six bowlers in the team it gives you another option and in 50-over cricket he has been great for us. His one-day record is special,” Charl Langeveldt, South Africa’s bowling coach said. “He gives you that option bowling at the back end as well. If he is fit, we are going to have a look today, and then we will make a judgement on if he will be able to play on Friday.”
Phehlukwayo’s inclusion will also help South Africa address their other selection conundrum – transformation targets. As of this season, the national team is required to field, on average, a team that is made up of 25% black African players, which equates to between two and three black African players in an XI, and three more often than two. In the three T20Is, South Africa met that target in each match (although they missed the overall player-of-colour target, which requires six non-white players) by fielding Rabada, Lungi Ngidi and Temba Bavuma. With Rabada out of the series and Bavuma competing with Janneman Malan for the openers’ spot, Phehlukwayo will be a welcome addition.
However, the bigger question might be what South Africa will do if Phehlukwayo still needs some time to get match fit. They will likely have to lean on one of their left-arm-spinner allrounders – George Linde and Jon-Jon Smuts – and carry a longer tail which could start as high as No.7. Lungi Ngidi, Anrich Nortje, Junior Dala and/or Lutho Sipamla and Tabraiz Shamsi are the likely frontline bowlers. Of those Dala and Sipamla are the least experienced international cricketers, on opposite sides of the domestic spectrum.
Dala is 30 years old and is into his 10th season of cricket. He has 158 domestic and international white-ball appearances to his name, was the leading wicket-taker in the 2018-19 one-day cup and the fifth-highest wicket-taker in last season’s MSL. South Africa see him as a new-ball bowler, perhaps to partner Nortje. “Junior bowls hard lengths, he is aggressive and when you’ve got two bouncers (per over) and two white balls, I see him very much as part of our 50-over plan,” Langeveldt said. “We worked on trying to up-skill him as well, get him to play slower balls and work on his yorkers.”
Sipamla is 22, a former national Under-19 player and by all accounts a prospect to be nurtured for the future. He finished third on the wicket charts in the inaugural edition of the MSL, which earned him an international call up in the 2018-19 season. His most recent appearance was in the final T20I against England, where he went for 45 runs in 2.4 overs.
That Sipamla is talented is undisputed, but the way he is managed needs to be more closely considered. Sipamla had not played any cricket, in any format, between an ODI in March and the T20I against England, having sat out the first two rounds of domestic cricket. At Newlands on Tuesday night, he looked a lonely young man, as none of his team-mates offered advice or empathy while Jos Buttler and Dawid Malan tucked in. Langeveldt conceded that South Africa needed to offer Sipamla more support but not that Sipamla should be held back until a less aggressive opposition comes to town.
“It’s been hard on Lutho. You know with a top team like that they are always going to target him. You need to speak to him, analyse his own game, try and calm him down in the situation. We tried to prepare him as much as we could, but we all saw in the game it’s hard when you are put under pressure, especially against a top-quality team,” Langveldt said. “We try to get the team to rally around him, to support him. That’s the big thing, to get one of your senior bowlers, even one of your senior players just to back him and say, ‘forget about that ball, it’s all about the next execution and just be clear in your game plans.’ That’s a thing we speak about a lot.”
But no one came to Sipamla’s side at the end of what was a demoralising defeat for South Africa. And this is where they need to be careful. Throw Sipamla into the deep end too many times and he could easily become a casualty of a transformation policy intended to do exactly the opposite. And if they are going to use the sink-or-swim policy for Sipamla, the least that needs to happen is that he has a few lifesavers around. Quinton de Kock wasn’t one on Tuesday and usually that’s where Faf du Plessis, or Rabada, would come in. Neither of them will be able to in the ODIs, which seems set up to be another test of South Africa’s ability to juggle their combinations before they even begin to work out how to take on the team they are playing against.
Langeveldt tried to see the positives in the situation. “For a young bowler, it’s a great opportunity to test the mental aspect of the game. England are going to come hard at you. That’s the nature of the way they play T20 cricket and fifty-over cricket. So mentally you need to be strong,” he said. “When you are under pressure, you need to be able to execute and they will learn from this. We’ve got work to do with our bowlers.”
Ultimately, South Africa have work to do all round because “we have a lack of international experience,” as Langeveldt put it. Maybe then it’s not such a bad thing to be without du Plessis and Rabada, for if nothing else, it gives younger players the chance to wrestle with the challenges they come up against, at the highest level.
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
Recent Match Report – Kings vs Zalmi 24th Match 2020/21-2021
Peshawar’s bowlers restricted Karachi Kings to their lowest ever PSL total before Zazai made short work of it
Peshawar Zalmi 109 for 4 (Hazratullah Zazai 63, Imad Wasim 2-2) beat Karachi Kings 108 for 9 (Abbas Afridi 27*, Abrar 3-14, Wahab 3-34, Gul 2-13) by six wickets
Only Islamabad United have gunned down a target quicker, and even their ten-over chase against Quetta Gladiators earlier this week looked like it would be eclipsed comfortably. In the end, three late wickets slowed things down slightly, but it still meant Zalmi had coasted to the target with nine overs to spare. Karachi Kings’ poor run since the resumption of the league continues, but the damage this defeat will inflict might reflect just as heavily in the minds as it will in the run-rate column.
Zazai’s devastating debut
Zazai is set to become a T20 franchise darling over the years, but even so, the contempt with which he lay waste to experienced, wily Kings bowlers in his first PSL game was a sight to behold. Once Kamran Akmal was dismissed in the second over, Zazai decided he wouldn’t let it scupper plans to wrap up the game in a hurry, and Amir was the unfortunate recipient at the end of his first offensive.
The first six was a shade streaky, a top edge over third man, but there was nothing chancy about the three boundaries that followed in an over that leaked 21. It was followed up by an over from the other Aamer Yamin – which proved even costlier, two sixes and two fours from the Afghan seeing him hurtle along to a blitzkrieg half-century. The timing and power were both astonishing, a fearsome 97-metre swipe over square leg perhaps the shot of the night. The 50 would come in just 17 balls – a joint record – and by then, the match had long been over as a contest.
Abrar haunts his old franchise
When legspinner Abrar was first introduced to the PSL by Karachi Kings in 2017, he looked a proper mystery spin bowler, one who might go on to become a valuable asset for his franchise. Opportunities were hard to come by and he was let go after a couple of seasons, but making his debut for Peshawar Zalmi, he showed his old side what they missed. Coming in when Imad Wasim’s side were already hobbling after a difficult first ten overs, he kept the Kings on a leash in his first over, allowing just two runs.
The 22-year old burst to life in the one that followed, though. He broke the budding partnership with a carrom ball Najibullah Zadran ended up holing out to long-off, before one that drifted back in put paid to Yamin’s brief stint at the crease. With Wahab deciding to bowl him out consecutively, he would sign off by deceiving Waqas Maqsood with a googly, two balls after the batsman had smashed him for six. He would end his day with figures of 4-0-14-3, and they didn’t flatter him in the slightest.
Where they stand
Karachi Kings were top when the league resumed, but slipped to fifth, outside the qualification spots. Peshawar Zalmi moved up to 10 points alongside Lahore Qalandars, and into second place.
Danyal Rasool is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo. @Danny61000
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