Some Proteas' T20 hopes fade

David Wiese (Gallo Images)
David Wiese (Gallo Images)
Cape Town - Completion of the round-robin phase of the RAM SLAM T20 Challenge has helped the national selectors streamline their thoughts a little around the ICC World Twenty20 in Bangladesh from mid-March.

Every franchise has completed its 10-match round-robin programme and the only fixtures remaining are the log-topping Cape Cobras’ home final at Newlands on Sunday afternoon, plus the earlier (Wednesday evening) playoff to make the showpiece between the Dolphins and Titans in Durban.

So Andrew Hudson and his co-selectors will have begun, even if perhaps only individually thus far, to train their thoughts to whittling down the provisional Proteas squad of 30 - named after Christmas - to the eventual 15 required for the world get-together.

Apart from the remaining two business-end matches in the domestic competition, South Africa still have three useful T20 internationals against Australia, after the major three-Test series, to fine-tune their game ahead of the Bangladeshi event.

Of course those games will feature many of the established members of the Proteas mix who will in all likelihood go to the ICC tournament regardless of how they fare against the Aussies, who have just thumped England 3-0 in the format.

The key task now is to contemplate which “fringe” players, from the 30-strong group, to eliminate - with the domestic T20 averages a reasonably fair guide to employ.

That said, the entirely different conditions that will be encountered in Bangladesh have to be weighed up as well, and on those grounds someone like leg-spinner Imran Tahir, who has done well for the Proteas in the format in six T20 appearances, should hold onto his spot despite a poor domestic campaign (three wickets in eight matches at 68.00 for the bottom-placed Lions).

By this writer’s rough calculation, around 11 players can probably be regarded as near-certain selections for the Bangladeshi trip, either on the grounds of known credentials or exemplary RAM SLAM T20 Challenge seasons: Faf du Plessis (capt), Hashim Amla, Beuran Hendricks, David Miller, Morne Morkel, Dale Steyn, Quinton de Kock, AB de Villiers, JP Duminy, Lonwabo Tsotsobe (if fit after a few weeks’ layoff), Imran Tahir.

Hendricks would be the interesting new face, and a thoroughly deserved one because he has been the individual star of the domestic tournament with his record tally of 27 wickets at 9.77.

He would be an unknown factor in Subcontinental conditions, it is true, but his form is irresistible and the 23-year-old left-arm seamer (who is not afraid to “mix up” his bowling at all) has to start his top-level education somewhere.

Rubbing shoulders regularly at Proteas level with the seasoned likes of Steyn, Tsotsobe and Morkel would do him the world of good, even if he wasn’t necessarily guaranteed too many games.   

That scenario would leave only four remaining places up for grabs, and some outsiders among the 30 who did their already long-shot claims notably little good during the domestic T20 event include Dane Vilas, Hardus Viljoen, David Wiese and Colin Ingram, while moderate performers like Chris Morris, Henry Davids and Dean Elgar may also not have done quite enough to woo the wise men.

The Cobras’ burly opening batsman Richard Levi was on the bounce-back from injury when the provisional 30 were named, and not included at the time, although he then played in eight of the 10 round-robin games for his franchise.

A monster-hitting match-winner when the mood grabs him and conditions suit his strengths, Levi nevertheless was too fitful for the Cobras.

He registered 176 runs at 22.00 although his tally would have been a lot poorer without the one century (113) he got and he still battles when spinners are employed early against him - not a great sign for the Subcontinent.

Here is a reminder of the provisional 30 named in late December:

Faf du Plessis (capt), Kyle Abbott, Hashim
Amla, Farhaan Behardien, Henry Davids, Quinton de Kock, AB de Villiers, JP Duminy, Dean Elgar, Beuran Hendricks, Imran Tahir, Colin Ingram, Rory Kleinveldt, Ryan McLaren, David Miller, Morne Morkel, Chris Morris, Justin Ontong, Wayne Parnell, Robin Peterson, Aaron Phangiso, Vernon Philander, Rilee Rossouw, Dale Steyn, Rusty Theron, Lonwabo Tsotsobe, Vaughn van Jaarsveld, Dane Vilas, Hardus Viljoen, David Wiese.

*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing

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