Australia in South Africa 2015-16 March 2, 2016

Steyn return threatens Abbott run


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Dale Steyn back for Australia series

After finishing as the joint-leading wicket-taker in two of South Africa's last four T20 series, Kyle Abbott should feel assured of his place in the starting XI but the imminent return of Dale Steyn means he is not. With Steyn certain to play in at least two of the three matches against Australia to confirm his spot in the World T20 squad and space for only one other specialist seamer, Abbott could find himself carrying drinks and his progression halted.

"I always feel like a bowler that needs to bowl a lot and get into rhythms. To play one game in a series is tough," Abbott said. "To get an extended run has really built my confidence."

Abbott has played in South Africa's last 14 T20 matches across six series but never with Steyn, who last played in the shortest format at international level in April 2014, at the previous World T20. South Africa have won three of those series and Abbott played a starring role in the victories. In Bangladesh, his four scalps led the wicket-takers' list along with Aaron Phangiso. At home against England, Abbott's five wickets was the most alongside Imran Tahir.

Abbott has proved himself in a range of conditions and situations, shown ability to swing the ball, threaten at the start and the death and lead an attack that typically includes Kagiso Rabada and allrounders Chris Morris and David Wiese. The problem is that Steyn is expected to do the same thing - albeit a little faster - and that would likely force Abbott out of the side.

Steyn's two-month, injury-enforced break has not dampened South Africa's willingness to have him as their first-choice. In fact, it has only enhanced his status.

"A hungry, fit, energised Dale is a massive plus for us," Russell Domingo, South Africa's coach, said. "He hasn't played for a long period of time now and he has come here with a great attitude. He is desperate to play, desperate to do well. He wants to win a World Cup. He wants to be involved in all formats of the game so his energy levels are right up there.

"His skills are always going to be there. It's about making sure the hunger and the passion is there and he definitely has that at the moment."

So the focus is on giving Steyn game time because he has not had any beyond a spell in club cricket last Saturday. "He needs to play some cricket at international level because there is a big difference between club cricket and international cricket," Domingo said.

And if Steyn needs any advice for getting back into the groove, Abbott has some. "Batting has progressed from a guy just standing still to trying to hit you out of the ground to hitting you for a six over the keeper. To keep up with the speed of the game is vital," Abbott said.

Abbott explained that T20 captain Faf du Plessis has instrumental in allowing the bowlers to stay ahead of the game by helping them make decisions about what to bowl, when. "Sometimes it's just gut feel at the top of your mark. Faf is excellent with that - understanding what a batsman is going to do and then narrowing down our options of what to bowl," Abbott said.

But Abbott admitted that it becomes increasingly difficult when things gets heated. "It's so short and quick, this format, that it's sometimes hard to dissect it too much." He may not feel the same way about his selection.

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Lerato H Nyelele Mjoli on March 4, 2016, 10:17 GMT

    proteas best you are very short lived morris and Wisse give away too much runs and boundary balls to be our 1st change bowlers but choose 1 and will have 3 good bowlers in the power plays morris tahir and towards 13th and 15th over some steyn to get us some wickets and Rabada and Abbot will finish the game for us two awesome death bowlers......I love Wisse but he has to offer with both entleke even in the field for him to make the team.....which morris dies pretty well

  • venkat on March 3, 2016, 16:39 GMT

    Cannot drop Wiese keeping WT20 in mind. It should be two from Steyn, Rabada, Abbott.

  • sydney on March 3, 2016, 14:59 GMT

    Drop Wiese for Steyn

    Wiese's scores were not so great.

  • greig on March 3, 2016, 9:54 GMT

    Steyn in for Wiese. Both have the same batting ability at INTERNATIONAL cricket.

  • Jeff on March 3, 2016, 9:40 GMT

    Why not pick Steyn, Abbott and Rabada along with Tahir and one of Morris/Wiese? T20 is all about the top 6 batsmen, 90% of the time if a team gets down to number 7 they have already lost. The batting of your last 4 players should NEVER be taken into consideration when picking the team, if your top six cant bat 20 overs between them, pick a top six that can, but NEVER weaken the bowling.

  • Blessing on March 3, 2016, 8:53 GMT

    I respect and adore Steyn but i feel Abbot should be in the T20 team ahead of him.

  • Nigel Mandaza on March 3, 2016, 8:03 GMT

    tuff choice 4 SA board both of these plyrs are in form

  • Malusi on March 3, 2016, 7:32 GMT

    Steyn must carry drinks. 6batmen, 2allrounders and 3 frontline bowlers should be our T20 blueprint. Wiesa has to be there, his ability with bat ll give SA balance, especially whn chasing and has a neck of picking up wickets during the middle overs alongside Tahir. Morris is a luxury player with both bat and ball, anything can happen as far as he is concerned. Abbott and Rabada are in fine form.

  • Chris on March 3, 2016, 7:19 GMT

    It strikes me that if you have two bowlers at the top of their game (even if one is four years younger - yes, ONLY four years younger than the other) then they should both be fitted into the team. Most good bowling sides have two 'stars' - one will egg the other along - neither will want to be overshadowed. Or - one could be having a bad day at the office...... And surely Steyn's batting isn't any worse than Abbott's.

  • Harjinder on March 3, 2016, 6:18 GMT

    Dale should not play t20 cricket any more . Abbott is a very special bowler for the death bowling and Dale 's speed cause some runs . So I think Abbott deserve a place after England series , GOOD LUCK !

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