ICC World Twenty20 2012 September 13, 2012

Opening a worry for South Africa

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South Africa's opening batting combination could be their biggest conundrum ahead of next week's World Twenty20. They used two different pairs in their three matches against England but did not manage a stand of more than nine runs, with Richard Levi emerging as the biggest concern.

Scores of 8, 0 and 1 meant that Levi was the first man out on all three occasions and the No.3 batsman had to perform a repair job, instead of being able to build on a start. "I really feel for Richard Levi actually, he seems to have a small technical fault," Peter Kirsten, former South Africa batsman, told ESPNcricinfo. "He tends to play across the line early on and of course everyone expects him to hit boundaries every second ball."

Levi's reputation was created when he played a belligerent innings against New Zealand in Hamilton in February. His unbeaten 117 is the joint highest T20 score of all time and in reaching it, he surpassed Chris Gayle's record of the most sixes in a T20 innings.

It was a display that earned him an IPL contract and got him noticed by other T20 leagues. While it was not a display that anyone expects him to repeat, it is also one he has not come close to replicating. Since then, Levi has scored just two half-centuries in domestic twenty-over matches. In his last 10 innings, he has not managed a score higher than 39 in his last 10 innings, which included an A series against Zimbabwe and Ireland, matches for Somerset in the Friends Life t20 and South Africa's three T20Is against England. All told, his international run has been lean.

Levi's reliance on leg-side play has been noted and he is now offered deliveries that are primarily wide of offstump, where he cannot hit to his favoured area of the field. Kirsten said "bowlers have worked him out now," and Levi will have to learn to play more conventional cricket instead of his stand-and-deliver slogging. "Hashim Amla and Jacques Kallis have shown that if you play good cricket strokes, you can still score quickly," Kirsten said.

Either of those batsmen could, and did, partner Levi at the top of the order. When the squad was announced convenor of selectors Andrew Hudson had said Kallis would open the batting in light of his performances at the IPL. It would result in Amla being pushed to No. 3.

Kirsten would rather see Amla open and Kallis at No. 3. "That for me would be the right way to go," he said. The alternative is that Levi is dropped altogether and South Africa opt for a more old-school pairing in Amla and Kallis. They will then to settle on a No. 3 batsman, what Kirsten called, "the key position." AB de Villiers would be the obvious choice but Faf du Plessis, who was also in contention for a place in the top two, is another candidate.

Du Plessis came to the selectors' attention for a place in the T20 squad with his showings for the Chennai Super Kings at the IPL. He admitted that he would like to open the batting but conceded that, as a rookie in the shortest format, he would have to do as told. Now, he is not even assured of his place in the starting XI, after a torrid tour of England. Du Plessis compiled just 39 runs in six innings in the limited-overs portion of the tour and looked out of sorts.

Kirsten said while Du Plessis has to make adjustments to his game quickly, there is no urgent need for concern over him just yet. "As AB de Villiers said, he knows what Faf du Plessis can do," he said. "We've seen him clean up games, finish off games in domestic cricket. If he just plays a little bit straighter, gets those hands going through mid-off a little more, then he can fill that No. 3 spot as well."

With South Africa continuing to use the yo-yo middle-order method in shorter forms of the game - a strategy that worked for them against both Sri Lanka and New Zealand - the importance of having a fixed duo at the top is more pressing.

"Flexibility," is what Kirsten called one of South Africa's biggest strengths and it has been their way of responding to criticism about being predictable, but he also acknowledged some degree of "certainty" will be useful as they challenge for major silverware. "After all the chopping and changing, I'm sure Gary Kirsten, Andrew Hudson and AB de Villiers will know exactly who they want to pick for the first game."

South Africa's campaign begins against Zimbabwe next Thursday, before they play Sri Lanka on Saturday.

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Nuristani on September 15, 2012, 6:20 GMT

    what south africans need to do is put levi or either duplises on top of order. but they need to keep hashim amla in team. Levi has been outstanding in tour of new zeland. but it does not mean we need to keep him all the time for the sake only one good tour he had. He needs to work on beating. We can not see getting out early in world T20.

  • Htc-Android on September 15, 2012, 1:48 GMT

    why they keep on ignoring david miller. he hasnt done that bad. he is the ideal person a no.6 my team 1.levi/faf 2.amla 3. kallis 4.AB 5.duminy 6.miller 7.albie 8.botha 9.morne 10.tsotsobe 11.steyn.

  • Jester01 on September 14, 2012, 19:45 GMT

    Levi should play the first T20 WC game against ZIM, if he doesn't improve... I feel we must drop him for Albie who started out as an opening batsman for The Titans in T20's and was very good at it. I also think he's better when the ball is still hard and new. J.Ontong don't deserve to be there. I'll have F.Behardien replace him who's had an excellent T20 domestic campaign and we all at least know what he's capable of. With the guys we have in Sri Lanka: My T20 team will be: 1-A.Morkel, 2-H.Amla, 3-J.Kallis,4-AB de Villiers,5-JP Duminy,6-F.Behardien,7-Fuf du Plessis,8-J.Botha,9-R.Peterson,10-D.Steyn,11-M.Morkel.

  • Proteas-13thman on September 14, 2012, 13:49 GMT

    WOW~!! I agree give Miller a chance~!! Well the boys are there now and hopefully they can shock us all and bring us home trophy.... Would it not be great if it were a South Africa versus India/England final....

  • OzHorse on September 14, 2012, 13:26 GMT

    Levi's a cross-bat slogger who also struggles against good spin. NOT a long term prospect. He's a dog who'll occasionally have his day on flat tracks, but he's not good enough to even defend against quality fast bowling or to attack quality spin bowling.

  • hst84 on September 14, 2012, 11:48 GMT

    parnell doesnt stand a chance in the side for now as he's inconsistent and is lacking confidence..Hope SA makes an impact in this tournament and win it eventually..

  • on September 14, 2012, 10:30 GMT

    May be he can be given the practice match & a game against Zimbabwe so that Kirsten and Co. can ensure whether continuing with him could be a possible option for the remaining tournament.

  • Kirstenfan on September 14, 2012, 9:59 GMT

    Levi is clearly fat and unfit too.

    We're carrying Levi, Ontong, Parnell, Tsotsobe, Faf and Behardien as passengers - how are we supposed to do well?

  • on September 14, 2012, 9:30 GMT

    I would keep Levi there. Who cares if he goes early? It's T20, there are only 20 overs. He's worth it for getting us off to a flier.

  • on September 14, 2012, 7:09 GMT

    My XI would be Levi, Amla, Kallis, Faf, AB, Duminy, Albie, Botha, Peterson, Steyn, Morne. Ontong, Behardien, Parnell, Tsotsobe all liabilities at the moment...let Levi have a slog at the top...if it comes off, great...if not...look at that batting line-up, with the best bowlers.

  • Nuristani on September 15, 2012, 6:20 GMT

    what south africans need to do is put levi or either duplises on top of order. but they need to keep hashim amla in team. Levi has been outstanding in tour of new zeland. but it does not mean we need to keep him all the time for the sake only one good tour he had. He needs to work on beating. We can not see getting out early in world T20.

  • Htc-Android on September 15, 2012, 1:48 GMT

    why they keep on ignoring david miller. he hasnt done that bad. he is the ideal person a no.6 my team 1.levi/faf 2.amla 3. kallis 4.AB 5.duminy 6.miller 7.albie 8.botha 9.morne 10.tsotsobe 11.steyn.

  • Jester01 on September 14, 2012, 19:45 GMT

    Levi should play the first T20 WC game against ZIM, if he doesn't improve... I feel we must drop him for Albie who started out as an opening batsman for The Titans in T20's and was very good at it. I also think he's better when the ball is still hard and new. J.Ontong don't deserve to be there. I'll have F.Behardien replace him who's had an excellent T20 domestic campaign and we all at least know what he's capable of. With the guys we have in Sri Lanka: My T20 team will be: 1-A.Morkel, 2-H.Amla, 3-J.Kallis,4-AB de Villiers,5-JP Duminy,6-F.Behardien,7-Fuf du Plessis,8-J.Botha,9-R.Peterson,10-D.Steyn,11-M.Morkel.

  • Proteas-13thman on September 14, 2012, 13:49 GMT

    WOW~!! I agree give Miller a chance~!! Well the boys are there now and hopefully they can shock us all and bring us home trophy.... Would it not be great if it were a South Africa versus India/England final....

  • OzHorse on September 14, 2012, 13:26 GMT

    Levi's a cross-bat slogger who also struggles against good spin. NOT a long term prospect. He's a dog who'll occasionally have his day on flat tracks, but he's not good enough to even defend against quality fast bowling or to attack quality spin bowling.

  • hst84 on September 14, 2012, 11:48 GMT

    parnell doesnt stand a chance in the side for now as he's inconsistent and is lacking confidence..Hope SA makes an impact in this tournament and win it eventually..

  • on September 14, 2012, 10:30 GMT

    May be he can be given the practice match & a game against Zimbabwe so that Kirsten and Co. can ensure whether continuing with him could be a possible option for the remaining tournament.

  • Kirstenfan on September 14, 2012, 9:59 GMT

    Levi is clearly fat and unfit too.

    We're carrying Levi, Ontong, Parnell, Tsotsobe, Faf and Behardien as passengers - how are we supposed to do well?

  • on September 14, 2012, 9:30 GMT

    I would keep Levi there. Who cares if he goes early? It's T20, there are only 20 overs. He's worth it for getting us off to a flier.

  • on September 14, 2012, 7:09 GMT

    My XI would be Levi, Amla, Kallis, Faf, AB, Duminy, Albie, Botha, Peterson, Steyn, Morne. Ontong, Behardien, Parnell, Tsotsobe all liabilities at the moment...let Levi have a slog at the top...if it comes off, great...if not...look at that batting line-up, with the best bowlers.

  • Pablo123 on September 14, 2012, 7:08 GMT

    I'd call up David Miller right now in fact. SA need solid players, not hit and miss players. I'd even recall Gibbs, but I'd be dreaming hey.....

  • Pablo123 on September 14, 2012, 7:02 GMT

    I'm South African and I wanted Richard in the side at first, based on his form in domestic cricket. However, he is a loose cannon, I can see that now and does not deserve to be in that team. He is woefully short of strokes.

  • sonu77 on September 14, 2012, 6:59 GMT

    In my opinion AB or Albie will be a better partner for Amla in T20s. My xi- Amla,AB,Kallis,Albie,Duminy,Faf,Robin,Parnell,Botha,Morne,Steyn

  • on September 14, 2012, 6:29 GMT

    I forgot Tsotsobe off my team! He is the obvious 11th player.

  • on September 14, 2012, 6:26 GMT

    @Proteas-13thman - I dig your team but still prefer Du Plessis to Ingram. Miller also found some form in Hampshire so maybe he could fill that number 6 role?

  • on September 14, 2012, 6:16 GMT

    I cannot agree with Kirsten. Levi's form is perfectly consistent, the only time he was out of form was when he scored 100 against NZ. How long do you stay in the team on the back of one innings? Open with Amla and Kallis. Amla, Kallis, De Villiers, Duminy, Morkel, Du Plessis, Peterson, Botha, Morkel, Steyn. On form, experience, IPL showings (whether you like it or not it'is the greatest 20/20 show on earth) and common sense, that is a winning team!!!

  • KunzMan on September 14, 2012, 4:37 GMT

    Faf, Amla, Kallis, ABD, Duminy, Ontong / Behardien, Albie, Botha, Peterson, Steyn, Morkel. Amla to play the aggressor role if he plays with Kallis.

  • Narbavi on September 14, 2012, 4:09 GMT

    @anilkp: lol, sehwag is way above the guys you compared him with, a odi average of 35 and a test average of above 50 makes him a better batsman than the likes of warner afridi and jayasuriya, no comparisons there!!

  • on September 14, 2012, 3:22 GMT

    At this stage of the game, I am inclined to believe the NZ innings was a fluke-and I am a Saffa!

  • Proteas-13thman on September 14, 2012, 2:58 GMT

    Team selection cost us the ODI and T20 series against England~! However maybe it is a positive we are not going into this as favourites...???

    My team selection(batting line up) would be: KALLIS, AMLA, AB De villiers, Albie Morkel , Duminy ,Colin Ingram, Petersen, Botha, Steyn , Morkel ,Tsotsobe 13th man would be KEVIN PIETESEN haha just kidding ...MATT prior ....

    If Wayne parnell and FAF du plessis play then the selection of the team is not done on merit... Wayne has failed too often to warrant a place in the side. FAF is excellent but can't perform when it matters so drop AB's friend and play someone who derserves a chance. ONTONG is not world class in any format of the game.

    I am interested in peoples opinions?

  • StarHawk on September 14, 2012, 2:54 GMT

    @anilkp, don't compare Levi to Virender Sehwag, a man who's got a test average of 50+.

  • Masud_BITK on September 14, 2012, 2:38 GMT

    Technique in T20 is a fake word or old dictionary world. You have to hit the ball, that is the first technique, then need clean hit like Amla. I don't rank SA in any mega tournament includeing this one, history says. They will fal like a ripen cherry. Amla and Kallis can make stability but Levi and AB's form are important to win the matches. I have no money to bet for them. I rather bet for WI.

  • Dale_Pain on September 13, 2012, 22:53 GMT

    Amla, Kallis, de Villiers, Duminy, du Plessis, Ontong, Botha, Parnell, Peterson, Steyn, Morkel.

  • anilkp on September 13, 2012, 21:53 GMT

    Hmm...Levi's form worries the pundits. Let me think...has he ever shown any form? Can "that" innings against the Kiwis be called "form"? It is common sense that if you close your eyes and hurl a stone into a fruit-ful mango tree, you may get a mango or two; but that will not happen always. Levi, Sehwag, Afridi, Warner etc. (like Jayasuriya in past) are such talents that you have to invest patience in them if you want one or two fruitful returns. But you have to realize that the returns will NOT always be fruitful. It is you administrators who have to decide whether to go with such players or to bank on more-reliable others. They will win you the game when they hit the mango--no doubt about it; but they will remain a liability when they fail. Simple.

  • cricfan17 on September 13, 2012, 21:35 GMT

    His technical fault is he's overweight. Get fit and get in form, Rich.

  • viswanav on September 13, 2012, 20:43 GMT

    Hahaha...What a joke! Never realized until now that Levi had a "technique." I'm not sure why the South Africans are hesitant to play both Amla and Kallis...Both have been exceptional in adapting their games to the T20 format...

  • sifter132 on September 13, 2012, 20:03 GMT

    Where's Graeme Smith when you need him? Oh that's right, dropped...Levi looks like an old school hacker - he got exposed pretty brutally by spin in the IPL, now he can't hit stuff outside off stump??

  • Munkeymomo on September 13, 2012, 19:59 GMT

    Technically... Woeful... Christ, Smith is a far better choice. SA could open with McLaren and rely on more runs, plus an extra bowler.

  • funkyandy on September 13, 2012, 19:40 GMT

    "I really feel for Richard Levi actually, he seems to have a small technical fault" Yes he does Mr Kirsten - he's technically rubbish!!!! Look at Levi's scoring chart and its all leg side and a bit straight down the ground - so bowl on 4th stump line and Levi's had it. How can such a limited cricketer make the SA squad?

  • on September 13, 2012, 19:25 GMT

    He's so overrated, couldn't even perform well in the Triangular series against minnows. Kallis and Amla should open for SA in my opinion.

  • Troyd on September 13, 2012, 18:50 GMT

    They stand a decent chance of winning, but I wouldnt call them favourites. Lack a reliable BIG hitter. Albie, before you say it, isnt reliable. WI look good, Eng are strong as are Pakistan. India will always be competitive too. NZ wont win it but traditionally take a scalp to get through to the semi's. Please don't make yourself 'that guy' if&when it SA lose a game. Choking only occurs when a team are strong favourites and from a position of strength steal defeat from the jaws of victory. SA losing to Pakistan for example in the semi final (hope they don't!) will just be a plain old loss [assuming no batting collapse in the final overs when .. you get my point i am sure]. England losing their No1 status in their own backyard with a team that began the series as well established, on the other hand, was a Choke.

  • RameshSubramaniam on September 13, 2012, 18:11 GMT

    I think SA is falling back to bits and pieces player they have in 90s. But differences is in the quality of players. Also they have too many bits and Pieces player starting from Albie who bats as high as 5. Quality of McMillans, Hudsons were missing. Against a decent bowling attack, apart from AB, Kallis and Amla, everyone struggles. I am not sure about the position of Duminy. He usually against spin , so it is interesting to see where he bats. AB should use Duminy, thw bowler as well.

  • SurlyCynic on September 13, 2012, 16:33 GMT

    Faf should open with Amla, Kallis at 3. Faf can hit over the top as he proved for Chennai, best to give him a start with gaps on the boundary. Then Kallis and AB as the next two batsmen. Levi is a baseball style slogger and everyone will just bowl wide of offstump to him. Or bowl spin.

  • Narbavi on September 13, 2012, 16:15 GMT

    Amla and Levi as openers, kallis at 3, di villiers at 4, duminy at 5, albie at 6, ontong and botha at 7 and 8, then the 3 quicks steyn morkel and tsotsobe, this is a title winning team!!

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  • Narbavi on September 13, 2012, 16:15 GMT

    Amla and Levi as openers, kallis at 3, di villiers at 4, duminy at 5, albie at 6, ontong and botha at 7 and 8, then the 3 quicks steyn morkel and tsotsobe, this is a title winning team!!

  • SurlyCynic on September 13, 2012, 16:33 GMT

    Faf should open with Amla, Kallis at 3. Faf can hit over the top as he proved for Chennai, best to give him a start with gaps on the boundary. Then Kallis and AB as the next two batsmen. Levi is a baseball style slogger and everyone will just bowl wide of offstump to him. Or bowl spin.

  • RameshSubramaniam on September 13, 2012, 18:11 GMT

    I think SA is falling back to bits and pieces player they have in 90s. But differences is in the quality of players. Also they have too many bits and Pieces player starting from Albie who bats as high as 5. Quality of McMillans, Hudsons were missing. Against a decent bowling attack, apart from AB, Kallis and Amla, everyone struggles. I am not sure about the position of Duminy. He usually against spin , so it is interesting to see where he bats. AB should use Duminy, thw bowler as well.

  • Troyd on September 13, 2012, 18:50 GMT

    They stand a decent chance of winning, but I wouldnt call them favourites. Lack a reliable BIG hitter. Albie, before you say it, isnt reliable. WI look good, Eng are strong as are Pakistan. India will always be competitive too. NZ wont win it but traditionally take a scalp to get through to the semi's. Please don't make yourself 'that guy' if&when it SA lose a game. Choking only occurs when a team are strong favourites and from a position of strength steal defeat from the jaws of victory. SA losing to Pakistan for example in the semi final (hope they don't!) will just be a plain old loss [assuming no batting collapse in the final overs when .. you get my point i am sure]. England losing their No1 status in their own backyard with a team that began the series as well established, on the other hand, was a Choke.

  • on September 13, 2012, 19:25 GMT

    He's so overrated, couldn't even perform well in the Triangular series against minnows. Kallis and Amla should open for SA in my opinion.

  • funkyandy on September 13, 2012, 19:40 GMT

    "I really feel for Richard Levi actually, he seems to have a small technical fault" Yes he does Mr Kirsten - he's technically rubbish!!!! Look at Levi's scoring chart and its all leg side and a bit straight down the ground - so bowl on 4th stump line and Levi's had it. How can such a limited cricketer make the SA squad?

  • Munkeymomo on September 13, 2012, 19:59 GMT

    Technically... Woeful... Christ, Smith is a far better choice. SA could open with McLaren and rely on more runs, plus an extra bowler.

  • sifter132 on September 13, 2012, 20:03 GMT

    Where's Graeme Smith when you need him? Oh that's right, dropped...Levi looks like an old school hacker - he got exposed pretty brutally by spin in the IPL, now he can't hit stuff outside off stump??

  • viswanav on September 13, 2012, 20:43 GMT

    Hahaha...What a joke! Never realized until now that Levi had a "technique." I'm not sure why the South Africans are hesitant to play both Amla and Kallis...Both have been exceptional in adapting their games to the T20 format...

  • cricfan17 on September 13, 2012, 21:35 GMT

    His technical fault is he's overweight. Get fit and get in form, Rich.