Even though South Africa lost their first T20 in six matches, captain Faf du Plessis was impressed with their attempt at defending 204. Du Plessis identified the extras – South Africa sent down eight wides and two no-balls compared to Australia’s three wides and one no-ball – as the difference between a successful second innings and a failed one.
“As a captain all you can ask of your bowlers is to be skillful at the death and bowl the ball in the right areas and we did that,” du Plessis said. “I am not overly disappointed. The disappointing thing is that when the game is on the line, you want to make sure you get your basics right. To bowl two free hits in the last two-and-a-half overs, is a match swing of about 10 or 12 runs.”
Chris Morris was responsible for one no-ball and two wides in the 17th over, Dale Steyn for a no-ball in the 18th over and Kagiso Rabada for two wides in the final over but du Plessis said he will stick with them as his death-bowling options, especially Rabada who came close to defending 11 off the last over. “You can’t always be hyper-critical on every situation,” du Plessis said. “We’ve got our death bowlers, Dale, Morry and KG. I’ve got no issue trusting a 20-year-old to bowl the last over. That’s how far he has come.”
Du Plessis also had praise for Steyn, who was making his comeback after more than two months on the sidelines. “I wasn’t too worried about his pace. On his first game back, you can’t expect a guy to bowl 150[kph],” du Plessis said. “I was really impressed with his control. The plans that he had were really good. It was almost like he never left, so yes, a really good day for Dale.”
Steyn was not used to open the bowling, bowled his four overs in the mid 130s kph and claimed two wickets, thanks to superb catches, and will have to get through the final match to confirm his inclusion in South Africa’s World T20 squad. That match is the series decider in Cape Town, which du Plessis hopes can give South Africa one last test before the World T20.
“It gives us another opportunity to have a crack at a real pressure game. It’s nice going to the World Cup, just to make sure and to see when the pressure is really on you how we react,” he said.
Hashim Amla will likely displace Quinton de Kock in that match as part of South Africa’s plan to “give everyone a go” and in keeping with the strategy of AB de Villiers opening, even though de Villiers has not come off against Australia. “We decided on AB at the top a while ago and to change that would be a sign of panic” du Plessis said. “I think our strongest team is with AB at the top in India. If the World Cup was in South Africa the thinking would be different.”
That does not mean there won’t be place for all of Amla, de Kock and de Villiers, particularly if the middle order don’t fire. “If we are struggling to find guys in the middle order who are not in form, we can maybe look at how to get AB in there but at the moment everybody is in good touch,” du Plessis said.
Aaron Phangiso will also play the final match, if his bowling action is declared legal. Phangiso will be tested on Monday with results expected by Wednesday at the latest to determine his availability for the World T20. Should Phangiso not be cleared to go, his replacement may play in Wednesday’s match and whoever that is – possibly, Eddie Leie who has returned to bowling after suffering a hamstring injury – will beed to be wary of getting the small things right. “It’s the one percenters we can learn from, from a bowling point of view,” du Plessis said.
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo’s South Africa correspondent
ESPN Sports Media Ltd.