South African batting unit generates glimmer of hope
Reeza Hendricks has been in sublime form recently|
South Africa has always been tagged as chokers in ICC tournaments and they have crumbled in pressure situations multiple times. The 2022 T20 World Cup is not far away and they can lift the trophy this time with a batting unit capable to pull it off.
South African teams have always been on the wrong side of results when it boils down to knockouts in World Cups. The team possesses the talent to excel in the showpiece event but has not been able to transform it into the trophy cabinet. The rainbow nation has participated in eight ODI World Cups since 1992 and made it to the semi-finals on four occasions. They were the quarter-finalists twice and were knocked out in the group stages a couple of times. However, even after having a bunch of talented athletes in their squad each edition, winning the World Cup has always been a distant dream for the team. 2015 looked to be their best shot at the trophy with stars like AB de Villiers and Morne Morkel plying their trade for the national side.
South Africa hasn’t been able to change its destiny even in the shortest format. Out of the seven T20 World Cups, they have participated in, the team entered the semi-final twice. The only achievement for them to show in ICC tournaments is winning the inaugural Champions Trophy but that glory came 24 years back. Some sloppy fielding efforts like the dropped catch in the 1999 World Cup semi-final, rain affecting the game on some occasions, and players not stepping up to their potential have led to South Africa being tagged as chokers.
However, the performance by the batting unit in white-ball cricket recently has shown a lot of positives. Their batting order seems to be capable of scripting a victory against quality sides and so South Africa has a chance to lift the silverware in the upcoming T20 World Cup. The batting unit seems to have batters for specific slots, there is plenty of depth in the batting unit and recent performance in the limited-over series against India and England might combine to hand them success in the showpiece event.
South Africa first drew an away series against India by 2-2 and displayed a solid batting performance. The batters showcased that they are able to bat well in subcontinent conditions. Heinrich Klassen performed brilliantly in the series scoring 118 runs from three innings at 39.33 with a strike rate of 151.28 including a half-century. In this series, they pulled off a tough chase of above 200 riding on the back of a sublime knock by Rassie van der Dussen. The next assignment was three-match series against England. The pitches were good for batting and the South African batter optimized it fully. They scored above 190 in all the games and won the series after losing the first match. Reeza Hendricks and Rille Rossouw were the stand-out performers for the team.
These two series along with the recent one against Ireland have displayed the depth of the South African batting unit and talent pool. The team have two quality openers in form of Quinton de Kock and Reeza Hendricks who make a left-right combination. Hendricks is in the form of his life scoring four fifties in his last five T20Is and so there is no question to leave him out. Temba Bavuma is the other opening option as he will be probably leading the team and can play an anchor role with his batting style. However, with De Kock out of form currently, he along with Hendricks seems to be the ideal opening pair in T20s.
South Africa has some solid middle-order options. Rassie van der Dussen is a technically strong player and he has the ability to anchor the middle order and also accelerate the run rate. Riley Roussow did well in the recent England series while batting at number 3. Aiden Markram is an experienced batter in the batting lineup and he can provide bowling options with his off-breaks which makes him handy. Heinrich Klassen is another batter who has been brilliant for South Africa recently and can pile up runs with consistency.
South African batting order also looks complete with the involvement of batters with an ability to provide a finish. David Miller had his best ever IPL campaign in the 2022 edition scoring 481 runs at 68.71. Dwaine Pretorius as an all-rounder is doing a terrific job of providing finishes with the bat and contributing with his medium-fast bowling as well in the international arena and domestic leagues as well. Also, the team has found Tristian Stubbs as a find from domestic cricket who can play cameos at the back end. He played a scintillating knock of 72 runs from just 28 balls in the England series.
Since the previous T20 World Cup, South Africa had scored 153 runs per innings and scored 41 runs on average in the powerplay. Since 1st January 2022, South Africa has had the second-highest strike rate in the middle phase (6-16) scoring 692 runs from seven innings at a scoring rate of 149.78 with only Bulgaria ahead of them. That shows the stability of their middle order and the capability to accelerate as per the need. Aiden Markram features in the top 10 batters in T20Is according to ICC rankings. With so many options available in the batting unit, the team looks set for a thrilling World Cup campaign.
With so much of options available, their only challenge will be to select the best batters. Temba Bavuma cannot be left out as he will lead the team but then one of the explosive batters in the team might have to sit out. The team have players who can anchor the innings as well as explode at different positions. Hendricks can lead the charge at the top, Markram can attack in the middle while Preorious or Miller can provide a memorable finish.