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The Proteas were whitewashed – but it’s not all doom and gloom for the T20 World Cup

The Proteas were whitewashed – but it’s not all doom and gloom for the T20 World Cup
Rassie van der Dussen of the Proteas hit by the ball during the 3rd Betway ODI match between South Africa and West Indies at JB Marks Oval on March 21, 2023 in Potchefstroom, South Africa. (Photo by Lee Warren/Gallo Images)

South Africa was thrashed 3-0 by the West Indies in a T20 series, but it painted a clear picture for selection at the T20 World Cup, with several returning stars strengthening the side.

The Proteas lost by eight wickets to the West Indies on 26 May. It was an annihilation, with the Windies getting to the modest 163-run target with 37 balls to spare.

The loss meant South Africa was trounced 3-0 in the T20 series, a week before the start of the T20 World Cup hosted in the Caribbean and USA. Wins in the first match (28 runs) and second game (16 runs) were relatively comfortable for the West Indies, too. 

But while the consecutive defeats reflect poorly, they are not an indication of how the team will perform at the global showpiece starting next week.

The Proteas squad that toured to the West Indies was made up of a combination of fringe players and debutants, with a sprinkling of senior players.

Out of the 14 players that took to the field, only six formed part of South Africa’s World Cup squad. The other eight were rewarded for terrific domestic seasons, standing in for seven players who were still in India playing in the playoffs of the Indian Premier League, and Kagiso Rabada who stayed home as he recovers from an injury.

The players chosen to go up against the West Indies were all the stand-out players domestically this year, with little regard given to the balance of the side.

The top order was made up of Quinton de Kock, Reeza Hendricks, Ryan Rickelton, Matthew Breetzke and Rassie van der Dussen. While they batted in that order, they are all regular openers for their franchise sides in the T20 format.

Sacrifices and adjustments had to be made, which saw the middle-order batting out of position and in situations they were not accustomed to.

And that’s where South Africa had their biggest problem throughout the tour.

Rickelton, making his international debut in the format in match one, scored a mere 43 runs across the three matches, at a strike rate of just more than 100.

Breetzke scored 36 runs with a similar strike rate to Rickelton.

Van der Dussen, who was captaining the country for the first time, was more productive, scoring 98 runs in total as well as notching up a half-century in the final match.

The aforementioned batters will be replaced by the capable and recognised middle-order of skipper Aiden Markram, Heinrich Klaasen and David Miller at the World Cup. Tristan Stubbs, while less accomplished at the international level, but on an inspired run of form nevertheless, should also find himself among those middle-order candidates.

Breetzke and Van der Dussen’s form is irrelevant to the Proteas’ hopes of World Cup glory, with both being omitted from the final 15. However, Rickelton’s lack of runs might have sealed his spot on the sidelines in the tournament. 

Opening up

The two who were given the role of opening the three innings showed glimpses of why they are likely to be given the honours when the tournament starts.

Hendricks, the leading batter for the national T20 side over the past two seasons, struck a career-best 87 off 51 deliveries in the first match and followed that up with 33 off 18 in the next, as he and De Kock shared an 81-run stand in only 4.5 overs.

Hendricks missed out in the third clash with a run-a-ball six, but it was still a good tour for the opener, who finished as the highest run-getter for South Africa.

After a quiet year for De Kock in T20 cricket, the only format he still plays, he looked in vintage form in the second T20, striking a blistering 41 off 17 balls to get the side off to a fast start.

He was muted in the other two matches. Nonetheless, the combination of De Kock and Hendricks looks like the best option as the tournament approaches. 

Bowling positives

The bowling, while travelling at over 10 in the second match and over 12 in the third, did have some shining lights.

Ottniel Baartman, who was rested in the last two matches due to a minor lower limb strain, impressed on debut in the first match, picking up three wickets and only conceding 26 runs in four overs.

Baartman has been excellent all year, and while he lacks experience at the highest level, he could be a real trump card with the other South African quicks struggling to contain batters.

The series in the Caribbean also saw the birth of a potential star. Nqaba Peter made his debut in the second match and took two wickets for 32 runs in his allotted four overs. 

The leg break bowler struggled in the final T20, conceding 27 runs in two overs, although he did take a solitary wicket.

Peter is not in the World Cup squad, but the 22-year-old possesses the rare skill of bowling consistent and threatening leg-spin, which bodes well for the country’s long-term cricket future.

An area of concern remains the form of Anrich Nortje, whose extra pace was carted around the small outfield of Sabina Park in Jamaica. Nortje bowled six overs on tour and conceded 73 runs, picking up no wickets.

After being South Africa’s go-to option at the death in T20 cricket over the past few seasons, Nortje could find himself struggling for playing time in the tournament – at least initially. 

While South Africa’s dismal showing in the West Indies perhaps lowers expectations at the World Cup, the series does need to be taken with a grain of salt.

The players selected to fight for the nation’s first silverware will put on a much better showing than the side that was walked over by the West Indies. DM

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