SA selectors looking for new blood
Lions left-arm spinner Aaron Phangiso and allrounder Chris Morris are expected to receive their first call-up to South Africa's Twenty20 squad, with the pugnacious Roelof van der Merwe tipped for a recall. Those are just three of the changes that could be made, as a new-look outfit has been promised for the three-match series against New Zealand.
South Africa last played in the shortest format at the World T20 in Sri Lanka in September, where they were knocked out in the group stage, and have since resolved to overhaul their T20 structures. The extent of that will be known tomorrow, when the squad is announced.
The first act of refurbishment was performed last week. National assistant coach Russell Domingo was promoted to the main job of the T20 side. Although Gary Kirsten will retain overall control, Domingo will take charge of the team for their five T20s this summer. It is his maiden voyage as an international coach and he will embark on it during a time of change.
"We are probably going to see a whole different look in the side. We are going to try a few youngsters here and there and there will definitely be a few new names. That's the way we want to go," AB de Villiers, the T20 captain said.
"We want to give youngsters performing at the domestic level a chance to showcase their talents. We might see a different side against New Zealand coming through. We'll follow the same kind of strategies but with new players, they will bring in different talents and skills, which is exciting. I am not going to change my captaincy too much. I am still learning but I will still follow the same kinds of game plans. Russell is there, he might have a few new ideas. It's always good to change a bit, get something fresh in and am looking forward to it."
South Africa will go into the series without some of their heavyweights. Graeme Smith has not played international T20 cricket this year and is unlikely to be selected. Jacques Kallis made a comeback for the World T20 but is nursing a hamstring strain and will focus on preparing for the Tests. JP Duminy is recovering from a ruptured Achilles' tendon and Dale Steyn may also be rested. Johan Botha, who has relocated to Australia, remains available for South Africa but will probably not be considered.
That will provide an opportunity and a stepping stone for the likes of Morris, who was identified after last season's domestic one-day cup in which he was the leading wicket-taker. He travelled with the squad to the unofficial T20 series in Zimbabwe in June and played three matches. Morris also performed well in the Champions League T20 in October and has been reaching speeds in the upper 140kph consistently this season. His big-hitting makes him an allrounder in the 1990s-mould, which South Africa have been searching for as the understanding of Kallis' cricketing mortality hits them.
Phangiso also found prominence through the CLT20. He finished joint-second on the wicket-takers list with ten scalps, and had an economy of under six runs an over. The Lions have called him their banker for the last three seasons because of his ability to dry up an end, and he could partner Robin Peterson in that role.
Van der Merwe can do a similar job and has done so in the past. He last played for South Africa on the tour of West Indies in 2010 but has fought his way back into contention. He finished as the second-highest on the bowling charts in the one-day competition with 22 wickets at an average of 19.95 and an economy of 4.69. Also known for his tenacious batting, van der Merwe could help harden up a soft middle-order.
South Africa also have concerns at the top of the order where Hashim Amla, Richard Levi and Faf du Plessis will compete for two spots. Levi was dropped in the latter stages of the World Twenty20 due to a struggle for form following his record-breaking hundred in Hamilton. Levi is the leading run-scorer in the ongoing one-day cup and convenor of selectors Andrew Hudson indicated the blistering batsman may be ready for a second coming.
"For a lot of players like Richard, it's all about building knowledge, building your skills and the ability to perform in any environment," Hudson said. "There is no reason to discard him or any of the youngsters at this stage, it's more about understanding where he is with his game, what he is working on and what his potential is."
Other players who could come into contention are Gulam Bodi, who followed up a stellar CLT20 campaign with runs in the one-day competition, and young wicketkeeper batsman Quinton de Kock. The 19-year-old de Kock has been talked up as a future star and is described as an "awesome talent" by his franchise coach Geoffrey Toyana, but has been inconsistent. He scored a hundred in the one-day cup campaign but all the rest of his scores have been below 40. Titans' opening batsman Henry Davids, who is the second-highest run-scorer in the one-day cup could also get a chance while left-arm seamers Wayne Parnell and Lonwabo Tsotsobe may find themselves back playing for their country.
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent