It had been eight months since JP Duminy last played a one-day international and six months since he last played any sort of competitive cricket, but he marked his return in style on Friday against the Netherlands, scoring an unbeaten 150 off 119 balls.
South Africa won the match without Dale Steyn or Morne Morkel to lead the attack, all while some of the newer faces in the side got some invaluable game time out in the middle. South Africa might not field a side without any of their big names when the tournament starts in Cardiff on Thursday, but there will be a number of inexperienced players who make up the side.
There’s no Graeme Smith or Jacques Kallis, and while that might be dispiriting for some, skipper AB de Villiers is, as ever, looking on the bright side.
“I see it as an opportunity. I think there is a very good energy in the team. Graeme and Jacques will be missed experience‑wise. They’ve played for a long time. But I like to look at things in a positive way. There is a lot of energy coming in a guy like David Miller who came in because of that. We saw him in many games in the IPL, and he brings a lot of confidence to the team. To have an added number six or seven in our batting lineup to know that we can win a game from anywhere is great,” De Villiers said on Sunday, ahead of South Africa’s second warm up game against Pakistan on Monday.
Alviro Petersen, who has not played a one-day match for South Africa in over a year, returns to the side to replace Smith at the top of the order and he brings with him a wealth of experience, with a solid season for his Lions franchise under his belt, and having had time in English conditions playing for Somerset.
“Petersen comes in with a lot of experience. He had a very good season back home for the Lions and for the South African District. He’s shown before in the shorter division that he can play the game really well. It’s great to have his experience. And his energy in the field. He’s a very good fielder and very good thinker of the game as well. It’s nice to have those two guys on the team. So I look at it from a positive perspective, and I feel we have a great energy and great mix on the team.”
There certainly is a lot for the Proteas to be excited about, but perhaps the most exciting of the recent warm-up against the Netherlands is Duminy’s emphatic return. While it should be noted that the Netherlands isn’t the most indomitable cricket team around, for a player to return with such acute precision and flair after such a long layoff is a tremendous feat. His swashbuckling knock included eight sixes and five fours, and while his hitting was helped by dross bowling, one cannot undervalue somebody of Duminy’s calibre.
It takes a special kind of player to return to international cricket in such convincing fashion. It certainly would be foolish to read too much into his batting, but even the skipper himself was surprised by his performance.
“We all know what he’s capable of. I’d be lying to you if I said I had full confidence that he’d come back like that, so he surprised us a little bit. But the vehemence and the kind of confidence and the cricketing brain he brings to the party and this team is irreplaceable, so it’s great to have him back, and to have him back in full form like that is a bonus,” De Villiers said.
Duminy, of course, made sure he put in the hard work in order to stay fit during his injury. He did as much as his foot allowed him to, and as soon as he could manage after the light training and strength work, he got stuck right into the heavy stuff. There was no doubt that he would be allowed a “free pass” back into the side as soon as he was ready, but there were some doubts whether he’d be able to hit the ground running. He hasn’t quite yet – it was only the Netherlands – but Duminy certainly has reminded everybody just how crucial he is to the South African set-up. DM
Photo: South Africa’s JP Duminy hits out during the first Natwest T20 international cricket match against England at the Riverside ground, Chester-le-Street, England September 8, 2012. REUTERS/Philip Brown
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