Cricket: SA has Steyn power, but still struggles
Dale Steyn produced one of the finest spells of fast bowling ever seen in T20, helping South Africa edge a nail-biting two-run win over New Zealand on Monday. JP Duminy propelled South Africa to an acceptable score earlier, but overall there are still quite a few questions hovering over the team. ANTOINETTE MULLER picks five talking points from South Africa’s second World T20 match.
Dale Steyn defended seven runs off the final over against New Zealand to hand South Africa a nail-biting two-run win in their second Super Tens match on Monday. It was one of the best overs in T20 history, and while the win will go down well, South Africa still hasn’t quite… clicked.
From a batting perspective, only JP Duminy has really flourished, and decision making by some of the more experienced batsmen remains a concern. And, while Faf du Plessis is a marked improvement on AB de Villiers as skipper, some of his decisions against New Zealand were very odd.
South Africa won a match and their hopes of progressing to the next stage remain alive, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t things to pick apart. So with that…
Du Plessis’ decision to give Morne Morkel the penultimate over
Morkel had a horror day with the ball. He was carted all around the park, and yet Du Plessis thought it best that he should bowl the over. Albie Morkel had two overs left and had figures of one for 13 while JP Duminy had one over left and had gone for 30 in his three overs. The captain obviously didn't trust Albie enough and thought Duminy was too much of a risk, so Morkel ended up with the burden of defending. He conceded three fours in that over and, thanks to Steyn’s brilliance, was able to breathe a sigh of relief. However, it should never have been so tight a contest. When a bowler is in rhythm, as both Steyn and Imran Tahir were, some theorise that it’s worth bowling them out. Others believe it’s about preserving them for the end, and Du Plessis obviously thought the latter option was the better one.
AB de Villiers and the burden of being flash
AB de Villiers is the best batsman in the world at the moment, in Tests and one-day internationals, that is. In T20s, he has been ineffective, with an elaborate shot selection where South Africa didn’t need it - and instead of going boom, boom, he went bust. In other formats, De Villiers is far more adaptable than at T20 internationals. On current form, he just can’t seem to read the game situation, or he panics for no good reason. De Villiers is a far better player than his current T20 efforts make him out to be.
The trouble with over-relying on individuals
JP Duminy has shown that he has some serious balls, Tahir is the perfect leg-spinner and Steyn is the best bowler on the world. With three individuals in the team who can win games, the rest of the team can easily get away with being average. The weaknesses also become less glaring and obvious. Although Hashim Amla is handy as an anchor and was dismissed in the most freakish manner against New Zealand, is he really the right option to open the batting in the boom-bash fest? Is Lonwabo Tsotsobe really a frontline bowler? Team selection in the shortest format of the game remains immensely conservative and it is disguised by the brilliance of a few select individuals.
When will the sloggers actually slog it?
David Miller and Albie Morkel are in the team to slog. While Miller often needs some extra time to get his eye in, Morkel has shown that he can fire from the start. Both games has seen him tee off for two balls, only to get out off the next ball. Slogging does require some patience and some observation. It was lack of awareness that got Morkel in the first game and complete disregard for the importance that got him in the second. Miller, meanwhile, still needs to prove his worth at international level. Domestically he has had some brilliant spells, but he has been quite inconsistent. He needs to repay the faith of the selectors.
Does Imran Tahir need a friend?
South Africa has a pretty long tail as it stands, but with the massive role spinners play in the shortest format, is it possible that Tahir might need some backup? JP Duminy has offered some support before, but was poor on Monday. Tahir needs backup at the other end to allow him to bowl with a little bit more freedom for his wickets. As the team currently stands, the tail is far too long to drop a batsman and add a spinner, though. Even if some other adjustments were to be made, the back-up spinner is Aaron Phangiso and his experience is limited. South Africa needs to find a bowler who can fill the “keep one end tight” role if they want to take full advantage of Tahir’s abilities. Steyn can’t really fill that role since he needs to be saved for striking at the death. The other option is Wayne Parnell. Parnell not only offers real pace, but he can also bat when it’s most needed. DM
South Africa beat New Zealand by two runs.
South Africa 170-6 (JP Duminy 86; Corey Anderson 3-0-28-2)
New Zealand 168-8 (Kane Williamson 51; Dale Steyn 4-0-17-4)
Sri Lanka top Group 1 after two wins from two games.
Photo: South Africa's cricket players celebrate the dismissal of Australia's Cameron White who was caught out by Imran Tahir (R) during the final of the T20 cricket test match in Centurion, March 14, 2014. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko