Sabato, 13 Febbraio 2016 21:11 | Proteas fire strong WT20 signal

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Cape Town – You have to caution against excessive comparisonswith its 50-overs cousin, but South Africa look in revitalised shapenevertheless for a healthy assault on the ICC World Twenty20 title.

It is

a pleasing fact that the overwhelming majority of thelimited-overs personnel who engineered the Proteas’ gutsy, come-from-behind 3-2ODI series triumph over England – eventually completed in quite emphaticfashion at Newlands on Sunday – will quickly switch codes now to the T20-themedend to the season.

After hosting England in a two-game mini-series (the firstat the same ground on Friday), and then playing a further three T20 fixturesalso at home to Australia, South Africa travel to India for a crack at winninganother of those elusive ICC major tournaments.

You pick favourites at your peril in that format, and the2016 event is likely to be no different in that respect, but at least you get asense that a cloud over SA cricket is beginning to lift at a good time after aproblematic summer marked by successive Test series defeats.

As stalwart former wicketkeeper Mark Boucher observed inSuperSport commentary, while invaluable century-maker AB de Villiers helpedguide his troops over the ODI series line: “They’ve been through a tough time,(and) needed to get used to winning again. This will stand them in good stead.”

Thirteen of the squad who turned out against England overthe last near-fortnight are scheduled to convert straight away to T20 activity,with left-arm spinner Aaron Phangiso added immediately and veteran strikebowler Dale Steyn intended to link up, fitness permitting, in time for thematches against the Aussies.

In broad terms, the Proteas’ limited-overs set-up can beconsidered to be in pretty sound nick; this series success was the third ODIone on the trot, following prior triumphs over India (away, 3-2) and NewZealand (home, 2-1).

Say what you like about head coach Russell Domingo and hisvarious deputies in a Test context, but under their charge South Africa haveachieved landmark ODI series victories in tough environments like Sri Lanka,the UAE (against Pakistan), New Zealand and India, won a triangular tournamentthat also involved arch-rivals Australia, and come as close as on any previousoccasion to taking the country into a World Cup final.

This was also a hugely satisfying outcome against afast-emerging, undoubtedly talented England side which, as former nationalcaptain Michael Vaughan candidly said in a tweet on Sunday, “will be very, verydangerous when they develop some brains”.

He was referring to some of their ill-advised shotselections -- and just as often associated dismissals -- at Newlands as theyallowed themselves to be bowled out with a full five overs left, after beingsent in, despite a ton from player-of-the-series Alex Hales.

Mind you, the current SA side are a long way from “finishedarticle” status as well; they are just as capable of doing inexplicably daftthings at unfortunate moments and there was a mixed bag of the sublime and theinept to both their bowling and batting at times.

They are more moody than they are a machine, if you like ...yet always a threat simply because of the impressive, proven quality of theirmajor parts.

On that score, it was fitting, after all the trials andtribulations they have gone through as senior staffers in the rocky last fewmonths, that the Proteas were primarily powered to Sunday’s decisive win by DeVilliers and Hashim Amla, who righted a listing ship from a precarious 22 forthree in pursuit of the target of 237.

Their century partnership was their 11th togetherin ODIs, taking them to joint-ninth on the all-time global list for most100-run-or-more alliances between pairs, and the leading South Africans rightalongside Graeme Smith and Herschelle Gibbs.

Leading the pack by some distance with no fewer than 26ton-up stands are Indian legends Sachin Tendulkar and Sourav Ganguly, althoughthey did have the benefit of 15 generous years together in the format; DeVilliers and Amla have had only eight so far, for instance.

There will be lingering doubts about the balance and make-upof the Proteas’ XI in the 50-overs arena, but this is less of an issue in themore condensed T20 game where teams are less frequently required to bat reallydeep and moderate or inexperienced bowlers can get away with short, wily stintsthat are often completed almost in the blink of an eyelid.

So South Africa have every reason to feel confident thatsometimes maligned men like JP Duminy, Chris Morris, Farhaan Behardien andDavid Wiese (though the last-named was impressive in the closing ODI on Sunday)can be genuinely influential in their varying ways at the World T20.

*Follow our chiefwriter on Twitter: @RobHouwing

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