TELFORD VICE, Cape Town
THE screws turned tighter on SA’s bid to stay in the running at the World T20 on Tuesday when JP Duminy was ruled out of their match against West Indies in Nagpur on Friday. But how much tighter?
Duminy, who strained a hamstring while fielding during SA’s win over Afghanistan in Mumbai on Sunday, has faced only 38 balls in his six T20 innings against the Windies, scoring 33 runs with a best effort of 13.
He has sent down three overs of off-spin for 22 runs and has claimed a wicket that was not Chris Gayle’s.
None of Duminy’s T20s against the West Indians have been played in Asian conditions.
But the loss of Duminy is less about his modest record against West Indies than it is about the circumstances of Friday’s game.
The most pressing is that defeat for SA would likely take them out of the mix for a place in the semi-finals.
Then there’s that fact that Nagpur offers enough turn to justify playing two spinners, even in a T20.
And Duminy snapped out of 17 innings in all formats without a half-century with an unbeaten 54 against England last Friday.
All of which is why SA coach Russell Domingo told reporters in Nagpur on Tuesday: “He is big player for us, especially at a venue where we know its going to spin. JP gives us the option of bowling four overs for us and his batting, too, is a loss. He has been in good form and it does upset the balance of the side.”
SA team manager Mohammed Moosajee said it was hoped Duminy would be fit for the match against Sri Lanka on Monday, but added that “with these things you can’t really put down a time frame; it could be anything from seven to 14 days”.
Who might replace Duminy on Friday is SA’s next challenge. Aaron Phangiso is not in Duminy’s class as a batsman but, besides first choice spinner Imran Tahir, he is the only other slow bowler in the squad.
However, Phangiso has not cracked the selectorial nod in SA’s last 13 matches in the shorter formats – including the first two matches of the WT20.
Picking Phangiso against the Windies, who beat Sri Lanka by seven wickets in Bangalore on Sunday despite Gayle’s absence due to what he called a hamstring “twinge”, could dump the slow left-armer in the deep end.
Matters beyond the boundary won’t help.
Phangiso was deemed too drunk to board a flight in October and was caught by television cameras apparently pretending to sniff cocaine off his thigh as he sat in the dugout during a T20 against England at the Wanderers last month.
He has not played in a competitive match since having his bowling action declared illegal and then cleared after being reported following a franchise match last month.
That Phangiso was reported – not to mention declared a chucker – was a shock considering the simple mechanics of what he has done at the bowling crease at senior provincial level since 2004.
That he was cleared after being retested just 10 days after being banned was a surprise.
Sources close to the slow left-armer say he is taking strain. But sports minister Fikile Mbalula has made Phangiso a standard bearer for furthering the cause of black African players, saying when his action deemed illegal that “all this should not serve as ammunition to those who continue to slow our transformation objectives”.
Phangiso is a strong man, those who know him say. If he plays on Friday he will have to be.