Sport

BIG HITTERS

Success of Proteas’ T20 World Cup campaign lies in their explosive batting lineup

Success of Proteas’ T20 World Cup campaign lies in their explosive batting lineup
Heinrich Klaasen of the Proteas during the 3rd One Day International against India, Boland Park, Paarl. 21 December 2023. (Photo: Ashley Vlotman/Gallo Images)

The Proteas boast perhaps the most imposing batting lineup, globally, as the T20 World Cup approaches. They will need it to fire at the tournament for the side’s best chance of getting their hands on a first World Cup trophy.

The success of South Africa’s upcoming T20 World Cup campaign will rely heavily on the side’s explosive batting lineup coming to the party.

The Proteas can almost assemble a second lineup deserving of a spot in the next month’s T20 World Cup.

Rassie van der Dussen is in thunderous form in 2024. He’s scored the second most runs in T20 cricket this year at a healthy strike rate just under 150.

Matthew Breetzke was in the top three run scorers in the SA20 at the beginning of the year and led the run-scoring charts in the CSA T20 Challenge last month.

Rilee Rossouw, after having a shaky SA20 season at the beginning of the year, has found some inspiring form recently in a struggling Punjab Kings side in the Indian Premier League.

Faf du Plessis has been striking it sweetly, although not entirely consistently, for the Royal Challengers Bangalore in the IPL.

The fact that all of the aforementioned players are seen as surplus to requirements speaks to the quality of the current lineup.

All, bar Du Plessis, who captained the team for seven years from 2012 to 2019, represented the Proteas in T20I cricket in the last 16 months and would have felt in with a shot of cracking the nod of fighting for the country’s first-ever World Cup trophy.

Quinton de Kock of the Proteas

Quinton de Kock of the Proteas. (Photo: Pankaj Nangia/Gallo Images)

Strong finishers

The players selected to take up the battle — Reeza Hendricks, Quinton de Kock, Ryan Rickelton, skipper Aiden Markram, David Miller, Heinrich Klaasen and Tristan Stubbs — have each earned their selection, either through phenomenal form or historic performances in the green and gold.

Stubbs, who might have been seen as a replacement option when the World Cup squad was announced at the end of last month, has almost forced his name to be the first one dotted down through volume of performance.

The dynamic 23-year-old has every cricket shot in the book, playing reverse scoops the one ball and elegant cover drives the next — both rocketing off his blade at the same velocity.

Tristan Stubbs of the Proteas

Tristan Stubbs of the Proteas. (Photo: Richard Huggard/Gallo Images/Getty Images)

In 14 innings for the Delhi Capitals in the IPL, the long-levered batter has in equal part clubbed and caressed 378 runs at a jaw-dropping strike rate of 190.90, the fifth highest for batters who have faced at least 100 balls in the tournament.

An impressive statistic is that he has only been dismissed on five occasions in the 13 times he has strode to the crease, boosting his average to 54. He’s also notched up three half-centuries.

Stubbs is likely to share the late-order finishing role at the World Cup with Miller and Klaasen, the latter has developed into one of the most feared white-ball batters in the world.

The powerful wicket-keeper batter has had a quiet IPL season by the lofty standards he has set while still smacking the white leather in ways normal batters can only dream of.

In 11 innings so far for the Sunrisers Hyderabad, Klaasen has scored 339 runs at a healthy average of 42.37 and an expectedly high strike rate of 186.26.

Klaasen’s ability to continually hit sixes almost at will has been eye-catching. This season in the IPL, he has only struck 12 fours compared to his 31 sixes, hitting 17% of the balls he faces for a maximum.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Heinrich Klaasen announces Test retirement after just four games

The destructive pair’s accomplice, Miller, has had a slightly muted season with the willow, partly marred by injury.

In an underperforming season for the Gujarat Titans, Miller has been to the crease only nine times and only passed 50 once. The 210 runs he’s scored this season means he’s only just in the top 50 run scorers, but his strike rate of 151.07 has meant that he has not wasted many balls.

Although not currently in prime form, Miller has played countless back-to-wall innings for the national side, most recently in the semi-final of the 50-over World Cup last year when he struck a sensational century after walking out with the score on 24 for the loss of four wickets in the 12th over.

Reeza Hendricks, Proteas

Reeza Hendricks of the Proteas during the 3rd One Day Internation against India at Boland Park, Paarl. 21 December 21 2023. (Photo: Ashley Vlotman/Gallo Images)

Top-order conundrum

The make-up of the top-order is where things are slightly sticky for head coach Rob Walter.

Hendricks has been the form T20I batter for the national side over the last two seasons

Since the start of 2022, Hendricks has scored 653 runs in 15 innings at a strike rate touching 150.

His opening partner will likely be a straight shoot-out between Rickelton and De Kock.

The former is the in-form T20 domestic cricketer this year in South Africa, however has yet to debut internationally in the format, while the latter has been a mainstay in the side since his debut in 2012 but has struggled to get it off the square this season.

De Kock’s average is a lowly 22.72 with a strike rate of only 134.40 in the 11 matches he has played for the Lucknow Super Giants in the IPL.

Rickelton, meanwhile, was the highest run-getter in the SA20 with an average of 58.88 and a strike rate of 173.77.

He was also the second-highest run-scorer in the CSA T20 Challenge, behind Breetzke, but at a better average and strike rate than the Warriors man.

Markram, as leader of the side, is an automatic pick and will likely hold down the No 3 position. He is also the best bowling option among the top-six batters.

The national captain’s form has been less than ideal for the Sunrisers Hyderabad in the IPL and he has found himself outside of the playing XI after playing the first nine matches.

He only passed fifty once and struck it at 130.92 per 100 balls. His international record is fantastic, though. In 39 matches, he averages 38.55 at a strike rate of 150.67.

South Africa’s prospective batting lineup may not boast the acclaimed names it did before, but it is building beautifully as the global tournament approaches.

If the lineup comes together and fires the way it’s shown it can, there will be few teams that could stop it at the T20 World Cup next month. DM

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