5 Things South Africa Must Improve Before the ICC World T20
South Africa were comprehensively beaten by Australia in the third Twenty20 at Centurion on Friday. The Aussies won by six wickets, chasing down 129 with 30 balls still to spare.
The T20 series between the two sides was marred by rain with the first game washed out and the second reduced to seven overs a side. Australia looked far more composed throughout though and South Africa have a lot of ground to make up ahead of their World T20 campaign beginning next week.
It is unlikely that South Africa will walk away from the tournament as champions, but there is much that needs to improve before they begin.
1. Use David Miller Better in the Batting Order
South Africa have a real power-hitter in David Miller, but he needs some time to get his eye in before he gets going properly. In the final T20 against Australia, Miller came in at five and didn't make much of a difference.
The theory is: If there are overs available to get Miller in, promote him up the order. It might be risky since he could very well end up gobbling up overs and then getting out but with somebody of his power-hitting stature, it's a risk very much worth taking. Miller has never come good in a T20 international, his high score is just 36 not out.
Whether his batting position or his temperament is the issue, only time will tell.
2. Hope Dale Steyn Is Fit to Open the Bowling
Dale Steyn missed out on the T20 series due to a hamstring niggle. With the World T20 coming up, it was decided that it's best to not risk him in a bilateral series. He should be fine to play in South Africa's first game, but they have to hope their pace ace stays fit.
Lonwabo Tsotsobe has been largely uninspiring upfront and Kyle Abbott might have been the better option for the squad. With Tsotsobe being a liability more often than not, Steyn will have to do a lot of the work up front.
3. Find Their Middle Order Mojo
With Hashim Amla being the slow and steady opener and Quinton de Kock being the aggressor, the middle order need to be able to adapt their game.
If De Kock is the first wicket to fall, the next batsman in needs to take on the aggressive role while, if Amla falls, whoever steps in can play their more natural game.
Players like J.P. Duminy and A.B. de Villiers will be crucial, especially against the "middle overs" of spin. South Africa were prone to having a "floating order" prior to Russell Domingo taking over the reins, but it has become far more settled since then.
However, the defined roles didn't quite click in the T20 against Australia and even though one match isn't enough to judge on, it is something for the Proteas' brains trust to ponder.
4. Bat A.B. De Villiers at No. 3 Or...let Him Open
A team's best batsman should bat as early as possible. A.B. de Villiers is by far South Africa's best batsman and to bat him any lower than No. 3 seems a slight waste. The more overs he has, the more runs he can score, simple.
With De Villiers no longer having the burden of the wicketkeeping gloves or the captaincy, there is no reason why he shouldn't bat at No. 3—or open for that matter. Opening might be a bit more tricky since the Hashim Amla-Quinton de Kock partnership has worked quite well in one-day cricket. However, it is yet to flourish in the shortest format of the game.
Perhaps having a more "stable" batsman like Amla come in at No. 3 when two aggressive players are opening isn't the worst idea.
5. Put Some Faith in Imran Tahir
Imran Tahir has had his ups and downs, and they have been mostly downs. However, he is a pretty effective bowler in T20 cricket, especially on spinning tracks. He has a strike rate of a wicket every 16.6 balls in T20 internationals and a wicket every 20.8 in T20s overall.
While J.P. Duminy has grown into an apt all-rounder, he doesn't need the extra pressure of being the main spin bowler. Tahir is perfectly suited to taking on that kind of responsibility. Opening with spin is becoming more and more common in T20s and if South Africa want to explore that route, Tahir should be the man to do it.