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Determined Rossouw rides his luck

Rilee Rossouw raises his bat after reaching a fifty Getty Images

Rilee Rossouw had an ODI debut he would probably rather forget, if he hasn't already. Tasked with opening the batting in a dead rubber against Zimbabwe, with his team chasing just 166, Rossouw should have racked up a decent score but he was in such a rush to get his first run, he ended up short of his ground.

His maiden T20 appearance almost went a similar way.

Rossouw had managed seven runs from as many balls when he top-edged Doug Bollinger in the third over and, with the four ducks he had collected from six international innings lining up in his memory, he hoped this would not be another one of those days.

"As the ball got to him I was praying and saying to myself, 'Drop it, miss it, please,' and then fortunately it happened," Rossouw said. "That's the little bit of luck you need in this game." It was another rookie, Nathan Reardon, who put Rossouw down and gave him the opportunity to show off the skills South Africans have known he has had for seasons.

Rossouw may have looked uncomfortable at elite level but is a regular on top run-scorers' lists across formats on the domestic circuit. That's why, despite his stuttering start, he was endorsed by ODI captain AB de Villiers, who spoke of his ability to change games, and was encouraged by the rest of his team-mates. "The team is really supportive. Even though I was going through some rough times, I could always lean on someone and ask for help," Rossouw said.

But even the most welcoming change-room's door eventually shuts and Rossouw would have known he was running out of rope, which is why he wished so hard for a reprieve today. When Reardon provided one, Rossouw clung on and came good.

"We've all had hard times, especially at this level and it's tough to get yourself up when things are tough for you. So it was exceptional to see the freedom he played with," JP Duminy said. "We spoke about somebody getting a 75 for us and he was the man today."

Rossouw played a combined anchor-and-aggressor role and was the only batsman to register a half-century in the match. He was strong on the pull shot and down the ground and hit the ball with both power and careful placement. Some will call this innings a breakthrough; proof Rossouw has just justified his call-up but him it is merely a first-step.

"It's not about proving anything; I just want to do well for the team," Rossouw said. "If, come summer's end, I am still in the side, I will be very pleased."

Duminy hinted Rossouw's ambitions may not be too far off when he said: "He will go from strength to strength not only in this format." That may mean Rossouw's chances of being included in South Africa's World Cup squad could be boosted by strong showings in these T20s.

The same could apply to a few other fringe players, particularly the bowlers who are in stiff competition for World Cup spots. In the series-opener, Kyle Abbott and Wayne Parnell put their hands up as death-bowling options, an area South Africa have lacked in in the fifty-over format. Both were able to execute the yorker to good effect, managing to hit a length that has sometimes proved elusive in the past.

"There was a big tick for our seamers," Duminy said. "We used the dimensions of the ground well - the boundaries are very long and straight so getting the ball in the blockhole was key for us. We spoke about doing that from the 13th over."

South Africa also did what de Villiers has asked of them in the field and pulled off exceptional catches. Farhaan Behardien was airborne at cover point to dismiss Cameron White, Duminy took one over his right shoulder and Quinton de Kock's full stretch leap and one-handed grab off Reardon capped off an all-round pleasing performance for South Africa's young T20 side.