The curious case of SA’s No. 7

Times Media

TELFORD VICE, Cape Town

WHO has been SA’s best No. 7 in one-day cricket this year? How do we measure such a thing? Besides, shouldn’t the match situation, rather than a predetermined order, dictate who bats where?

As with much in cricket, answers to those questions are difficult to come by. But some of them can be summed up in two words: Farhaan Behardien.

Which is not what many would want to hear, including whoever runs a parody Twitter account in the name of former Springbok coach Peter de Villiers.

Last Wednesday, when SA beat New Zealand by 20 runs in the first ODI in Centurion, “Coachdivvy” posted, “Behardien is the (Zane) Kirchner of cricket. No-one knows why he is in the team but at least he looks cool.”

Few could say why Behardien was preferred to Ryan McLaren in SA’s World Cup squad. That meant his selection was, fairly or not, pinned on transformation quotas.

And it is true that, in his demeanour and body language, Behardien seems less a man to go to war with than a refugee fleeing a war.

Also, let’s not forget that, in SA, any player who is not white will be suspected of having earned his place on race rather than ability.

Whatever. This year Behardien has been SA’s most successful option for a No. 7 batsman who also bowls.

Of the 13 ODIs SA have played in 2015 in which they have sent a No. 7 to the crease, Behardien has been that man seven times. David Wiese has done the job in three games, JP Duminy twice and Wayne Parnell once.

The only equable stat with which to compare them is strike rate. At No. 7 this year, Parnell’s is 60.71, Wiese’s 72.34, and Duminy’s 117.64. Behardien’s? 122.76.

McLaren also comes second to Behardien as a No. 7 with a strike rate of 73.96 after 29 innings in that position. Overall, Parnell has had six innings there for a rate of 85.05. In Behardien’s total of eight innings at No. 7 he strikes at 120.80.

Duminy tops all of them with 136.36 as a No. 7: his best place in the order in those terms. But, perversely, that has led to him being promoted to No. 6 to give him more time at the crease.

With Duminy on daddy duty, Behardien moved up to No. 6 in SA’s series against New Zealand. Wiese was at No. 7.

“We had a chat before the start of the series and I thought Farhaan was moving exceptionally well in the nets,” AB de Villiers said. “I sensed something special was coming.

“If we can have a batter at No. 6 in form in moments like that, we are going to win a lot of ODIs. I am very excited for what’s to come if he is going to play like that.”

De Villiers topped SA’s strike rate charts in the series with 101.96. Next, with a round 100, was a skinny coloured fella who wears a scraggly beard, bats with a calculated coldness of purpose, bowls decently and fields like a demon.

Why is he in the side? Dunno. Must be a quota player …

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