Afghanistan v South Africa, World T20, Group 1, Mumbai March 20, 2016

Powerplay pace remains concern for South Africa

For a brief moment, while Mohammad Shahzad was cutting loose, Faf du Plessis admitted he was a touch worried as his new-ball bowlers again went the distance

0.1 overs, Kagiso Rabada to Mohammad Shahzad. Shahzad watches the ball as it pitches. Still watches it as it heads towards the wicketkeeper's gloves. The bat is raised but no attempt is made to bash the ball beyond recognition. No kidding. If Faf du Plessis had, for just a moment, anticipated a relatively calm beginning on the evidence of this - especially after the England game - it turned out to be a reddest of red herrings.

Rabada's next delivery sailed fine of third man - more by virtue of a fortuitously furious edge than design - for a six. He compensated by going short on the fifth stump but Shahzad's front leg was already out of the way and a scimitar-like cut condemned the ball to the point boundary.

The only consolation for Rabada was he had conceded 10 runs fewer than the 21 he went for against England. Kyle Abbott, at the other end, however, was clattered for three sixes and a four in the second over, while Rabada leaked 14 in the third. Afghanistan were 47 without loss after three overs, nine runs shy of England's 56 at the same stage on Friday. That Chris Morris curtailed Shahzad's innings to 19 deliveries - they cost South Africa 44 runs, including three fours and five sixes - staunched the bleeding somewhat. But Afghanistan still finished the Powerplay with 64 for 2 after Morris also removed captain Asghar Stanikzai in the sixth over.

What perhaps afforded South Africa some insurance was their score of 209 - they became the first team to make more than one 200-plus total in a single edition of the World T20 - especially considering their opponents' relative inexperience at this level. And yet, du Plessis admitted to having been "a bit" worried.

The South Africa captain was right, for their bowling, save for Morris and Imran Tahir, remained inadequate for the second time in three days. Also, despite Shahzad's dismissal quite a few Afghanistan batsmen swung their bats to swiftly shave runs off the target. Had any of Noor Ali Zadran (25 off 24 balls), Gulbadin Naib (26 off 18) or Samiullah Shenwari (25 off 14) played a longer hand South Africa might have copped some grief.

Du Plessis' approach to the Powerplay is to view it as two sets of three overs and South Africa are having significant problems with the first set of three. Still, du Plessis' bowling changes in the first six overs appeared regimented. He didn't deploy Tahir, his most economical bowler against England, in the Powerplay for the second game in succession, although he later said the thought had occurred to him.

"Imran Tahir was going to bowl probably the third or the fourth over but then we got Shahzad out," he said. "It's a big challenge for the guys bowling in the first six here as we saw with us against England. But I do think there are areas where we are a little bit soft in our execution and we need to improve on."

Among the areas that may need rethinking was the persistence with Rabada and Abbott in the Powerplay even after they were taken apart in their respective first overs. Both the bowlers made drastic course-corrections - they went either too full or banged it short - without varying the pace, and consequently suffered for their lack of subtlety on an even-paced surface. It wasn't until the second half of the innings that they turned to slower bouncers and cutters.

The most gaping hole, though, was caused by David Wiese, who replaced Dale Steyn after the pitch was not deemed to suit Steyn's "skiddy" style of bowling. Wiese predominantly operated on a good length or just short of it, but he was either too wide outside off stump or too straight; there wasn't any redemption for him as he conceded 47 runs in four overs.

Du Plessis said there was a case for his bowlers to learn from Morris' spell and that the Wankhede surface demanded a shorter length at a slower pace. He reckoned, however, that the pitch didn't offer enough turn for them to play Aaron Phangiso.

"The wicket is very good but it is definitely not an excuse," he said. "I wanted us to show a bit of intensity with the ball and show a little bit of 'we are supposed to be bowling a lot better than that' attitude. If you bowl well - Chris Morris showed that today - bowl with good disciplines, good intensity and you are strong in the way your plans and the way you want to bowl there is enough for the bowlers to bowl well.

"I think in the first six any pace behind the ball is really nice to bat so today was either to go short at them or try and take some pace off before trying to close the batsmen down with some yorkers. So there is a lot of learning for me especially to see how Chris bowled tonight."

Another area of concern for Du Plessis will be JP Duminy's injury after he went off the field during the first over of Afghanistan's chase having injured his left hamstring while chasing a ball. With their next two games to be played in Nagpur and Delhi, du Plessis hinted at a possible change in the team's composition to include another spinner while underscoring Duminy's value in preserving the balance of the side.

"We are going to a different ground now where things will be completely different. Going forward I think spin might play a role but I know our seamers actually bowl really well in conditions that are slower," he said.

"Even though there has been a lot of criticism on JP's bowling, in these conditions he is massively key for us. He is an allrounder so he balances your side out by bowling a bit of spin. I would have liked for him to bowl two or three. I was even at one stage thinking of telling AB to warm-up again, but he hasn't practised for a year and a half since the World Cup. So it's difficult for a captain when you have only got five options."

South Africa have five days to work out their combination before they come up against a rampaging West Indies side in Nagpur. When du Plessis offered his congratulations to Shahzad at the media conference Shahzad responded by wishing him luck for the rest of the tournament. He and South Africa could do with it as much as they could with some tactical flexibility.

Arun Venugopal is a correspondent at ESPNcricinfo. @scarletrun

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