“I think exposure to those situations more often grows experience and with experience comes the ability to execute”
Among many questions the South African team will be asking itself ahead of the third T20 International against Australia, will be the following: Can anyone else besides Quinton de Kock score some big runs please?
It was De Kock who scored four half-centuries in the Test series against England, then a century in the opening One-Day International, followed by another half-century in the third match and then two more half-centuries in the five T20 matches South Africa have played against England and Australia.
There was a naughty stat doing the rounds on Sunday afternoon when it looked like Australia would close out the series in Port Elizabeth; in the first T20 International against Australia, De Kock made two runs and the rest of the South African batting combined, 87.
In the second match De Kock made 70 and the other five batsmen who went to the middle at St George’s Park made 88.
It’s not a balanced point, but it is a point about South Africa being far too reliant on the captain.
As good as he’s been this season, he can’t keep being the one and only player to contribute significantly on a consistent basis. It would be nice if one or two more players could step up.
They may need to, because Australia won’t allow De Kock to beat them again at Newlands.
Temba Bavuma, who batted so brilliantly with De Kock against England has been missing with a hamstring strain, and it is understandable that the medical staff have been careful to throw him back into the fray.
Faf du Plessis hasn’t fired yet, although he will point out that had someone been able to stay with him at the Wanderers the outcome there would not have been quite so embarrassing.
That puts the onus on David Miller. He’s not done a lot wrong in the last few weeks, but he’s also not produced that match winning effort all that ‘Miller Time’ hype would have you believe. He’s scored 85 runs in the five home T20 Internationals this summer, at a strike rate of 130 but have any of those knocks been as memorable or impactful as De Kock’s two half-centuries in the same period?
Miller isn’t under pressure for his spot in the starting team right now, but the prospect of AB de Villiers returning later this year as part of the build-up to the T20 World Cup could see that change. South Africa could do with the bit of Miller mayhem in Cape Town in the series decider tomorrow as much for the player as for De Kock, who’d like to have some of the scoring load taken off his shoulders.
Australia’s middle order also finds itself under scrutiny after failing to get across the line in PE. Assistant coach Andrew McDonald said the players would reflect on a missed opportunity to close out the series, but with the World Cup later this year in mind it was also a valuable opportunity to learn some lessons.
“I think exposure to those situations more often grows experience and with experience comes the ability to execute,” said McDonald.
As they’ve done with Matthew Wade and Alex Carey in the first two matches, McDonald expects Australia to keep moving players around in the middle order to target specific situations.
“Justin wants the players to be flexible,” he said. “We’re training them to be flexible and most of the time, these guys have batted in all different situations and positions in the order.
“We feel as though we’ve got that flexibility and probably the two that are locked in are David Warner and Aaron Finch at the top and I daresay Steve Smith will be unlikely to move.
“But we’ll be flexible between four, five and six and I don’t think that’d be any different in Cape Town depending on the situation.”