Ideal prep time for SA's T20 squad
South Africa finished the one-day series in England with a morale boosting victory. It was important to win the last game and put an end to the slacking off in performance that occurred during the middle of the one-day series.
In fairness, neither side really looked like they wanted to play this series. There was a lack of commitment and passion from both teams. To be brutally honest, the form shown during this series was far from befitting the number-one ranked one-day team in the world on both counts.
There is so much cricket being played at international level that this mediocre contest will soon be forgotten. The fifty-over World Cup is a long way away and many things will change between now and the time when teams start thinking about that competition Down Under in a few years' time. This series, in the overall scheme of things, was insignificant hence neither team fielding full strength combinations.
However, as I said in a previous column, the three T20 matches coming up over the next few days are significant. South Africa have to try and establish the combination they want to play in Sri Lanka during the upcoming World T20. The good thing is that conditions in England won’t be far removed from the conditions expected in Sri Lanka.
This may sound strange, but conditions in Sri Lanka have changed radically. Most matches will be day/night affairs. In the past when teams planned any cricket in Sri Lanka they thought about the importance of spin bowling. That is no longer the case. At night, moisture is a big factor. The ball moves around both through the air and off the surface. There is dew and rain around as well. The wet ball makes it difficult for the spinners to hold on to and rather than extract turn, the ball skids onto the bat. What makes it more of a lottery is that the Duckworth–Lewis method will play a role as well because of thunderstorms that happen on a regular basis at the moment.
Scores are lower as well due to the movement the seam bowlers extract and it is difficult to attack the first six overs during the batting power play. Not many teams will realise this change has occurred, but I would be surprised if the Proteas haven't picked up on this significant change in required strategy.
The biggest question at the moment is how the South African batting lineup will be structured? The obsession of having a
left/right-hand combination at the crease at all times is flawed thinking. Occasionally this helps, but in T20 cricket you need your most destructive batsmen to face the majority of balls whether they are left or right handed.
Is there is place in the T20 batting lineup for both Hashim Amla and Jacques Kallis? If so, where will they bat? One has to open with an attacking player, which makes it difficult to find a spot in the order for the one who doesn’t open. The batting order in the T20 team should become more settled. Although there should be flexibility in T20 cricket, each batsman should have a role that he fills on a consistent basis. This should only change when something unexpected happens in a particular game itself.
So, hopefully the next three matches in England should shed some light on the strategy and thinking of the selectors and coaching staff. South Africa should be happy with the change of conditions in Sri Lanka. It will benefit them and the next three games are ideal preparation for exactly that.