SA wanted for grand theft cricket

Sunday Times


TELFORD VICE, Cape Town

SOON Faf du Plessis’ face is going to appear on posters: “Wanted, out or not, for grand theft cricket.”

The Du Plessis gang, aka SA’s T20 team, pulled off their latest heist at Kingsmead on Friday – where they came back from 95/6 to chase down 158 for victory over Australia.

At Newlands two weeks ago, against England, they needed 32 runs off 18 balls and 15 off six – and got ’em.

And so to the Wanderers on Sunday for another no doubt exciting installment co-starring the Aussies.

Might AB de Villiers suffer a first-baller? Could an allegedly fit Dale Steyn not be picked? Too late: both of those outrages featured in the Kingsmead caper.

For only the second time in his 372 innings for SA De Villiers was dismissed at the earliest opportunity. After all the anticipation of his return following more than nine weeks on the sidelines with a shoulder problem, Steyn was left out.

It was difficult to decide which was less believable – De Villiers’ footless nudge to the wicketkeeper or the apparent opinion that Steyn was not part of SA’s strongest side.

After all, Du Plessis said on Thursday: “We’ll try to put our best team out …”

Hashim Amla was also missing in action in Durban. Perhaps he and Steyn should start a support group.

Perhaps not. On Tuesday Russell Domingo said, “I definitely want (Steyn) to play in at least two (of the three games against Australia).” Which means SA’s team sheet will be breaking news on Sunday.

Whether Amla or Quinton de Kock is the best option to open the innings with De Villiers is another point of discussion. De Kock did so in Durban. Does that mean Amla will crack the nod on Sunday?

How much of all that is about tinkering with combinations before the World T20 – in which SA will play their first match, against England, in a dozen days’ time – how much about giving everyone gametime and how much about the difficulty of getting straight answers out of players and coaches, and holding them to account for those answers, is difficult to know.

More certain is that SA are building promising momentum as they look to achieve what would be only their second triumph in a major short format tournament since they started competing at that level 24 years ago.

One of their matchwinners on Friday was Imran Tahir, who, having been brought on to bowl with Australia cooking at more than 10 runs to the over on Friday, took three wickets in 20 balls and had a catch dropped.

The other was David Miller, whose unbeaten 53 ended a drought of 17 completed white-ball innings for SA in which he had not reached a half-century. 

Sometimes your wicket has to go for the team,” Miller said.

But runs are always wanted, out or not.

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