T20 thrashing doesn’t matter

Every team in the world can lose a T20 game heavily. The best teams obviously do so less often than the not-so-good teams, but the wheels can come off the best cars.

So being thrashed by six wickets with an embarrassing 30 balls to spare against Australia at Centurion on Friday night doesn’t matter.

What does matter is that it will happen again unless the squad adopt a different approach and attitude? Tactically, they have fallen two or three years behind the best teams in the world.

Conservatism still governs tactics with both bat and ball. Whereas the most successful teams, international and domestic, make a point of putting their most destructive and free-scoring batsman at the top of the order these days, the Proteas insist on the ancient ploy of loading the batting order for an assault in the final death overs.

But that has become harder and harder to execute because, unlike the Proteas bowlers, others have developed new tricks and skills to make run scoring in the slog overs far more difficult. It resulted in them ‘reversing’ the order of the innings and treating the opening power play as their ‘death overs.’

AB de Villiers is South Africa’s most destructive, match-winning batsman and yet he is batting at No 5 rather than No 3. Why?

Faf du Plessis is a highly successful cricketer and a clear thinker. It seems peculiar that he has not grasped the significance to the bowlers of dot balls – even a single dot ball.

Most bowlers treat them as a small triumph. If not a chest-pumping triumph, certainly reason for a mini fist-pump. The days of handing these little successes to the bowlers as ‘gifts’ belong in a different era. There are only 120 balls in an innings. Make the bowlers earn every one of their dot balls. Stop blocking the ball. Or worse, leaving it.

David Miller does not play spin as well as quick bowlers. By having him at No 6, especially in Bangladesh, it seems far more likely that he will be facing slow bowling. He should be at No 4.

An extraordinary statistic about Albie Morkel’s lengthy T20 international career is that there has been, on average, less than 12 balls remaining in the innings when he has walked to the wicket. And people say he has under-achieved. What did they expect him to achieve? He should bat at No 5. And probably leave the bowling to the others.

The Proteas may be scared of the ’40-4 syndrome’ but if that transpired then Du Plessis and Duminy would be the perfect men to rebuild. Both, too, are capable of quick scoring should they come in with four overs to go. By then, of course, the score ought to be 180-5.

The Proteas still talk about ‘time’ in T20 cricket. There is far more of it than you think, there’s no need to panic. And that’s all true. But the other teams have moved on more quickly and improved further than Faf’s men. There are less hittable balls. T20 cricket is no longer an 800m race, it’s a sprint.

With no weight of expectation bogging them down, now is the chance for Faf and his team to seize the moment, put their heads down and – sprint. If they fall, so what? They’re certainly not going to win the race by jogging it.

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