Steyn back in mix


Steyn will come in for one of Kagiso Rabada or Kyle Abbott, with the need to ‘manage’ the former’s playing time likely to see the 20-year-old sit out at his home ground. If skipper Faf du Plessis and coach Russell Domingo feel that a Steyn/ Rabada combination is likely to start at the World T20 tournament, then they will want to test that at some point, either in the third game of this series or in the two warm-up matches before South Africa starts its World T20 campaign in India.

If Steyn is near his best, as Du Plessis and the coaching staff have claimed recently, then a starting team with both will make South Africa difficult opponents.

As it is the unit picked for Friday’s opener in Durban fought back well after the initial ‘blitzkrieg’ from Australian opener Aaron Finch.

In making 40 off just 18 balls, Finch propelled the tourists to 69/1 inside the power play, a prodigious platform, but one from which they failed to build the expected big score in the region of 200.

Finch explained afterwards that was down to Australia playing with their egos instead of their heads, allowing Imran Tahir to wrest the initiative from them and put the match back in the balance.

With both teams demanding pitches that will be akin to what is likely to be on offer at the World T20 in India, today’s surface at the Wanderers may not be as quick, or as bouncy, as is traditional at the ‘Bullring’.

So batsmen will have to mind their egos, especially once that power play is over and the demands for greater care against the spinners becomes paramount.

In particular, the middle order batsmen face the most pressure, especially if, as was the case for South Africa on Friday, the top order fails.

David Miller’s match-winning 53 not out was crucial in further augmenting the confidence the side has about its lower order – where Chris Morris has starred in recent weeks.

Now that a middle order ‘finisher’ has completed a job under pressure, another small piece of the puzzle for the World T20 has fallen into place.

And then there’s the top order, or rather who of Quinton de Kock and Hashim Amla will fit into the opening spot alongside AB de Villiers.

Another question that arose after South Africa beat England a fortnight ago was: why not start all three?

But Du Plessis is loath to veer from using just one of them to partner De Villiers. It may be time for South Africa to take a leaf out of Australia’s book.

Darren Lehmann and Steve Smith have been vocal about the fact that while they want to win this series, they also want to examine some combinations ahead of the World T20.

South Africa should give the Amla-De Villiers-De Kock batting triumvirate a run in the same starting team at some stage before the tournament.

That begs the question: who to leave out? Many would answer JP Duminy, but despite his drop in form this season, he remains a player valuable to the side in the T20 format.

The likely candidate is Rilee Rossouw who, on Friday, tried to do too much and, in the process, forewent simplicity.

South Africa want to win the series: they are placing a high value on confidence going into the World T20 – but building self-belief should not hinder them looking at other options. Du Plessis may have his best starting XI in mind already, but what if it could be even better?

Today’s match starts at 2.30pm. (TV: SS2) - Sunday Tribune

Dale Steyn’s return will be the main feature of the second T20 International at the Wanderers between South Africa and Australia.

Original source: Steyn back in mix