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World T20: Duminy proves selectors right

When JP Duminy was selected for the World T20 squad, more than a few people questioned the selectors' choice. But after a woeful summer on South African soil, during the World T20 Duminy has already shown why he plays such a valuable role in the batting line-up. He will be sorely missed when South Africa take on the West Indies on Friday. By ANTOINETTE MULLER.

Prior to South Africa’s departure for the World T20 in India, fans would have been forgiven for being just a tad perturbed that JP Duminy was on that plane. He had struggled in all formats across the South African summer and in the T20 series against England and Australia his performances were remarkably unremarkable. Scores of 23, 5, 14, and 1, and a bowling economy of 16.00, 24.00 and 9.00 meant eyebrows were more than just a little raised about his inclusion.

But sports fans have a notoriously short memory and over the last two fixtures in the World T20, JP Duminy reminded everyone why he remains an invaluable asset in the T20 format, especially on the subcontinent. In that completely ludicrous match against England, Duminy scored 54 off 28 and against Afghanistan he added 29 off 20.

But these results should hardly come as a surprise. Prior to Duminy’s slump during the South African summer, he’d more than played his part during the T20 against India last year. He’d scored 30 off 30 and 68 off 34, both knocks unbeaten, both the highest score of any South African batsman, in the two-match series South Africa played on the subcontinent in 2015.

Duminy is also South Africa’s highest run-scorer in T20s with 1,654 runs at an average of 38.46 (including the two World T20 matches). He’s scored more half-centuries than any other player in the squad and has the second highest average of any player who has played more than 20 matches for the country. Since 2014, he had a higher average than any other South African player and the third-highest globally, the second highest of all test-playing nations (behind Virat Kohli). Duminy also has an impressive Indian Premier League (IPL) record with 1,802 runs in 67 matches at an average of 40.04. Only David Miller (42.54) has a better average of the South Africans in the tournament.

While his bowling remains innocuous at times it’s fair to say that the selectors knew exactly what they were doing in persisting with Duminy in the T20 side. While they get plenty wrong, this is clearly one decision they got right.

Duminy’s contributions and adaptability will be missed when South Africa take on the West Indies on Friday. He is out of action after sustaining a hamstring injury during the Proteas’ clash against Afghanistan. It’s particularly frustrating as Duminy also offers something with the ball, especially on what is expected to be a turning wicket like Nagpur, and coach Russell Domingo admitted that he will be missed.

He is a big player for us. When you come to a venue like this (Nagpur), we know the ball is going to spin. JP offers us that option as a guy who can bowl four overs for us. He is one of our main batters and is in good form. Not having him is a big blow and does upset the balance of the side,” Domingo said.

There is nothing we can do about it,” he continued. “We have a good squad of players and whoever steps in knows that everyone supports and backs him 100%. Any one of these 15 players in the squad are good enough to come in and do the job for us.”

That replacement will, in all likelihood, be Rilee Rossouw, but it won’t be the only change South Africa makes. Domingo openly admitted that the Nagpur track lends itself to playing two spinners, which means Aaron Phangiso will be drafted into the side.

It’s definitely a wicket where you need to play two front-line spinners,” he explained. “History suggests that, and that is what the nature of the wicket looks like. Spin is going to be important here and we are fortunate that we have two quality spinners in Imran Tahir and Aaron Phangiso. I’m confident that both of them will get game time on Friday.”

Phangiso could replace either Kyle Abbott or Chris Morris, depending on whether South Africa feel they need to bolster their batting or not. Neither of the two were overly convincing in South Africa’s opening fixture against England, but Morris fared far better against Afghanistan. However, Morris has the tendency to be erratic with the ball and can be a liability. He does, however, provide plenty of impetus with the bat.

And impetus with the bat will be exactly what South Africa will need with Chris Gayle out on the prowl. Gayle has been declared fit for the clash and has already taken England apart in this tournament, hitting an unbeaten century against them in the team’s opening fixture.

Getting Gayle’s wicket up front will be key. He is most prone to getting out between 0-19 runs, having been dismissed in that range 55% of his T20 career. However, if they fail to strike early, there is a good chance that Gayle will go on to get a big score and if their PowerPlay bowling woes in this tournament are anything to go by, there is serious cause for concern.

This is a must-win fixture for South Africa and they will be hoping they can win it convincingly to keep momentum ticking over into the Achilles’ Heel that is the knockout phases of an ICC tournament. 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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