A few allrounders and at least six bowling options are what South Africa needs to get their team balance right, according to former captain Faf du Plessis.
"That's a challenge that we are facing right now," du Plessis said, after the five-wicket defeat to England in the first T20I. "We've lost Andile [Phehlukwayo] and Dwaine [Pretorius] which fills the role of a sixth bowler and we need six bowling options because if one guy goes on the day, it puts you under pressure. But with the balance of our squad, it doesn't look like it's possible to go for a six-man bowling attack. That's why the allrounder plays such a crucial role in balancing the side."
South Africa went into the series opener with six specialist batsmen, four frontline bowlers and a spin-bowling allrounder in debutant George Linde. Ideally, they would have also liked to have a seam-bowling allrounder but Dwaine Pretorius has been ruled out of the series with a hamstring injury and Andile Phehlukwayo was unavailable for selection. That meant that when Quinton de Kock was looking for some variety, he turned to Heinrich Klaasen's part-time offspin.
Klaasen's solitary over cost 14 runs, which shifted momentum towards England, but it was Beuran Hendricks' 28-run over that sealed England's win. Du Plessis cautioned against reading too much into de Kock's decision to try something different, or into Hendricks' expensive over, believing both would bounce back.
"My experience tells me that in the game of T20 cricket, someone is going to go on the night. I wouldn't look too much into it if one guy goes for runs," he said. "That's the nature of the beast playing T20 cricket and I wouldn't judge him too harshly. Tonight wasn't his night."
Asked if selection could have been different and Anrich Nortje, who lit up the IPL alongside Rabada, could have played as well, du Plessis indicated it was difficult to fit Nortje in, perhaps due to transformation targets.
"It's tough on Anrich [because] it's a balancing act with our team. We've got to try and get that balance right. He was on the short side of it today," du Plessis said. "But he is bowling really well so we are expecting him to make inroads soon."
"My role in working with Quinny and the bowlers is that it's important for me to give advice, talk to the bowlers and make sure there is clarity in their plans"
Faf du Plessis is no longer captain but still has a leadership role
South Africa also have the option of including Jon-Jon Smuts, a top-order batsmen who bowls left-arm spin - though that is a similar option to Linde - or changing up their batting line-up to accommodate for Reeza Hendricks, who has not bowled in T20s. It is not clear if Phehlukwayo will be available for the next match, leaving South Africa with de Kock to solve things as he seeks to balance the side.
But du Plessis is there to help. Although he has relinquished the leadership, as the senior-most player in the side, du Plessis still sees himself as having a role to play in developing the next generation. That was evident when he led some of the on-field consultations, especially towards the end of the England innings.
"It's important for my own role in the team to assist and help but I don't look to interfere too much," he said. "It's great for Quinny to have the opportunity to learn about field placings and angles. My role in working with Quinny and the bowlers is that it's important for me to give advice, talk to the bowlers and make sure there is clarity in their plans."
Du Plessis also has a job to do with the bat and he did that in this match, where he top-scored with 58, picking up from where he left off as the leading run-maker for the Chennai Super Kings at the IPL. Not only did his knock change the tempo of the South African innings but it showed his intent to keep playing, for as long as he can.
"I had a really good six months off and had some time to reflect and put a lot of time into getting myself as fit and mentally strong as I can be," du Plessis said. "I still feel like I have a lot left and I am not anywhere close to thinking I am stopping playing cricket. It showed in the IPL: I am moving around well, and I'm switched on and hungry for every ball. I am going to try and push on for as long as I can."