New Zealand v South Africa, World T20, Group 1, Chittagong March 24, 2014

Du Plessis backs batting combination


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Crowe: Duminy excellent under pressure

So this is how South Africa want their T20 line-up to work. Start slowly, build calmly and then have a full go at the end, like they did today against New Zealand.

That is the reason they insist on keeping Hashim Amla, who is too often labeled 'not a T20 player,' at the top of the order, and why they do not want to promote AB de Villiers into it. They see Amla as having the right measure of conservatism and class to kick things off and de Villiers, along with David Miler and Albie Morkel, as having the creativity to close things off.

When it works, even when not exactly according to plan, it results in totals like today which South Africa will back themselves to defend. Despite the squeaky-bum ending, the score would have left most teams comfortable and was a nod to what South Africa are aiming for with the combinations they have in operation now.

South Africa have divided the innings up into segments, starting with the powerplay. Faf Du Plessis said in Chittagong they've decided "45 seems to be the par score so I wanted to get close to that and not more than two wickets down." South Africa were 42 for 3 in the first six overs, a little short and an extra man down but they were there and thereabouts, especially because the man they want to survive the opening exchanges, Amla, was still there.

"Hashim's role is to bat with someone. If someone else on the other side keeps scoring boundaries, Hashim can be the structure and the solidness through the batting line-up," du Plessis explained. "If we look at our top five, it's made up of guys who, apart from Hashim, naturally play aggressively so he fits into that game plan. It's his role to manoeuvre the rest of the innings."

Amla is not required to go at a strike rate of much more than 100, which is where he hovered throughout his innings today. He is not required to take risks either which is what has earned him so much criticism from those feel he is not fit for this format. It's worth remembering Amla occupied the top spot on the ODI batting rankings not long ago and du Plessis is confident Amla can change tack if he needs to. "If there is a day where those guys don't score runs then Hashim knows that he has to play a little bit quicker."

Today was not that day because JP Duminy was on the other end, timing the ball and finding the boundary. All Amla had to do was "stay with JP for a period of time to make sure that our hitters at the back didn't come in when there were too many balls left." In other words, Amla has to keep things going for as long as possible in the second-third of the innings because only after that, should the rest be needed.

South Africa do not subscribe to the theory that the most destructive hitters need to face the most balls. They don't want de Villiers, Miller and Morkel batting when the majority of overs are still to be bowled. Perhaps that is because, as Miller and Morkel showed, they are only up for a quick boom-boom before the bust. Perhaps they only do that because they don't have any time to settle but the chicken-egg debate is not one South Africa are aiming to solve.

They've decided what comes first and it's not the men they have labeled finishers. "We need to make sure we have Miller and Morkel coming in towards the end of the innings not when they have to still worry about rotating the strike but where they can just play their natural game," du Plessis said.

The big-hitters don't always come off but they have the best chance to if Amla and then Duminy allow them the freedom to, as they did today "JP controlled the innings beautifully. He took risks when it was needed and made sure the strike was rotated," du Plessis said. "As a blueprint of a T20 innings, that's one of the better ones you will see."

It was textbook because Duminy was circumspect to start and upped his tempo later without getting carried away. "In a perfect world, you always want that freedom to express yourself but with freedom comes a little bit of responsibility," Duminy said. "We are finding the right mix. If we can perfect that, we stand a good chance of producing results in these kinds of tournaments."

Duminy has found the balance and it resulted in two top-scores for the team in two matches. More importantly for him, it gave South Africa's bowlers something to work with, which is what the batsmen are there for, after all. "I'm glad that it gave us a chance to defend because at one stage we didn't think we'd get to 170," Duminy said. "I'm pretty happy with the innings but if Dale and the rest of the bowlers didn't produce something it wouldn't have meant anything." That it did will give South Africa confidence what they are doing with their batting line-up could work.

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • shamil on March 26, 2014, 12:48 GMT

    AB throws away his wicket in game after game, series after series, tournament after tournament. It must be wonderful to be the golden boy of your country and never have to be criticised, never have to face the chop, and always have the blame heaped on others. When will Andrew Hudson sit down with him and explain to him what his wicket is worth to the team,and to the opposition, and give him an ultimatum : Perform in the big games or have a rest on the sidelines.

  • greig on March 26, 2014, 7:25 GMT

    Faffs comments are laughable. The only reason why we are still in the this competition is because of Steyn. He is using the victory against New Zealand as justification for a weak batting strategy in T20. It clearly doesnt work and we will be exposed soon enough. Dale Steyn can save you by defending 7 runs in 1 over every game.

  • Dummy on March 26, 2014, 6:46 GMT

    Qdk,AB and miller need to be explosive is best.

  • Dummy4 on March 26, 2014, 6:25 GMT

    I can't help but think that we made 2 blunders with our squad selection: 1. Behardien doesn't seem like he can cut it at international level, so we should have opted for an experienced finisher who performed well at domestic level (Kemp or Ontong). 2. We are one bowler heavy and hence one batsmen light. A flamboyent Rilee Russow who have given us another dynamic option up the order. Nevertheless, I still feel Amla does OK in the first 8 overs. He struggles to kick-on and pick-up the rate from there though, and hence becomes a wicket we are willing to sacrifice - strange position to be in.

  • Varun on March 26, 2014, 5:33 GMT

    @TommytuckerSaffa, @ Ralf Foley. I totally agree. SA should spend more time planning for the next match and chalk out the best strategy to gain as many NRR points as possible. Steyn's over and Duminy's willow won't come to the rescue every match. It wouldn't read too much in to this victory. It was not emphatic. If they are playing to win the tournament, a much improved thought process should be put in place.

  • Dummy4 on March 26, 2014, 3:23 GMT

    @TommytuckerSaffa, SA captain and coach have the same stubbornness as the Bok rugby coaches. The more they hear that they are wrong, the more determined they are too stick to their guns and prove everyone else wrong. Because of their massive egos, the entire country must suffer when SA is knocked out early. To say that they don't want AB to open because he may lose his wicket early, is such negative thinking. If AB bats for 10 overs, and plays his natural game, we will win most of the time. Right now, he is coming in and trying to hit a 6 off every ball. Same for Miller and Albie. Makes no sense.

  • Harjinder on March 25, 2014, 22:10 GMT

    We have good belief in DU Plesis because he showed a positive attitute topwards his team .Yes Amla is slow striker ,to be changed with Levi or someone else but hitting is not everything Amla is akey batsman to hold on one end .....but M.MORKELL does nt deserve a place in T-20 and ODI not even test matches ,he fully flop player .We have Hendricks ,..need to be called in ....good luck

  • Kavir on March 25, 2014, 19:06 GMT

    Surely, a recipe for yet another CHOKE. Top 3 gets us to 70-80 in first 12 overs then we will expect the Millers and Morkels to get us 12 an over to chase down 170+ scores. In the meantime Amla and Faf build great averages, so we have to put the blame ("the choke") on the mid-lower order again.

    Need to specialise and need to bring in guys like Rossouw, Davids, Delport. Also what ever happened to our lower order big hitters - we always had a few of them around. So need to consider Hardus Viljoen, Pretorious (Lions), Wiese

  • greig on March 25, 2014, 17:09 GMT

    Totally disagree with Faff on this and he has got this all wrong. Your openers in T20 need to be big hitters for two reasons. 1. Power play and 2. To not put pressure on the other batsman to get boundaries. With Amla opening, he lacks the ability to hit over the top during the fielding restrictions and this puts pressure on De Kock.

    Amla should bat at 3 or 4 where he can hold an innings together. His 'justifications' come after a great innings by Duminy and brilliance from Steyn - not through good captaincy (Morkel bowling 3rd over) and stunted opening pair.

  • Samrat on March 25, 2014, 15:05 GMT

    People panning Amla should realize that he is only second to AB playing spin in the subcontinent. Without him, the whole batting order will unravel inside 20 overs on these pitches, if they just attack and attack.

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