Cape Town – Sorry, we know what you can do, but healthy numbers do mean something.
That might have to be the reluctant message from the Proteas’ brains trust to David Miller, so dangerous at best but currently disastrous in delivery terms at the crease.
South Africa tackle India in the third and decisive Twenty20 international at Newlands on Saturday (18:00) after a heartening six-wicket levelling triumph over India at SuperSport Park – their most compelling white-ball performance in what has otherwise been a generally chastening couple of weeks of limited-overs fare against the tourists.
It may be tempting for Ottis Gibson and company not to wish to tamper with their XI as a consequence, but the national team certainly aren’t firing on all cylinders by any stretch, and the two dormant members of the T20 squad so far, batsman Christiaan Jonker and left-arm spinner Aaron Phangiso, could feasibly be accommodated at Newlands.
Uncapped Jonker is especially worth having a look at in the middle order for longer-term purposes … and his case is only strengthened by the ongoing woes being experienced by Miller.
The stalwart left-hander is in the throes of a protracted slump that has seen him notch only 133 runs from his last 10 innings (five ODIs and two T20s against India, plus three for his Knights franchise in the Momentum One-Day Cup) at an average of 13.3.
His best effort has been 39 in the Wanderers ODI, and there have been as many as seven single-figure scores in the grim sequence.
Those include successive innings of nine in Johannesburg and five at Centurion in the current T20 series.
It might actually do his stuttering cause the power of good to be left out on Saturday, effectively serving as a wake-up call and chance to regroup after being a regular in both national limited-overs teams for so long; he sports 105 ODI caps and 59 in the T20 landscape.
Consistency has never been a special virtue of the known crowd-pleaser even when on song, and no player warrants a “season ticket” in the team, especially when in such bad nick right now.
At 28, he is highly likely to be able to bounce back at some point, and keep in mind that his third-last T20 international knock was a scorching (36-ball) 101 not out against modest foes Bangladesh at Potchefstroom back in slightly brighter times for Miller in October.
Heinrich Klaasen, two years Miller’s junior, is making very healthy strides as a power-hitter himself in the Proteas’ side, and his strike rate of 230 in a pivotal innings of 69 – including seven sixes and three fours, so 54 runs in boundaries – only served further notice that he is a significant threat to the more established customer’s place when a few injured stars return to the batting order.
More immediately, Miller’s know match-winning credentials when he is striking the ball cleanly may yet keep him in the Newlands team by the skin of his teeth, but Jonker also doesn’t warrant spending the entire series inactive.
If it is not going to be Miller creating a gap for him, Warriors franchise colleague Jon-Jon Smuts is another possible “sit out” candidate after two relative failures, although he operates in an opening slot rather than the middle order.
Another alteration that seems feasible is Phangiso coming in for Tabraiz Shamsi as the frontline spinner.
He is more of an economy-conscious sort of spin bowler than genuine “striker” – an area where Shamsi does come into business on a good day – but perhaps that is the way to go in Cape Town after the left-arm chinaman deliverer leaked 61 runs from six overs across the two T20 internationals so far.
Another option, although not that likely in evening conditions at the coast, is pulling out a South African seamer – one of Chris Morris or Dane Paterson, both expensive and wicketless at SuperSport Park? – to facilitate both Phangiso and Shamsi playing.
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