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How can South Africa’s T20I top-order improve significantly

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Quinton de Kock, Cameron Delport, Colin Ingram, Rilee Rossouw, AB de Villiers, Heinrich Klaasen. An ideal South Africa T20 top six might look like this. 

Unfortunately, three of these players are Kolpak and can't be picked in the team while AB de Villiers is still in two minds about his international career. 

This has left South Africa with depleted resources to choose from and they went with the following top six on Sunday against England: Quinton de Kock, Temba Bavuma, Reeza Hendricks, Faf du Plessis, Rassie van der Dussen and Heinrich Klaasen.

South African cricket’s reasons for not picking Kolpak players is understandable. Their constant chirping on AB de Villiers’ uncertain position is also understandable. But, what is not understandable is how they arrived at the aforementioned top six, even with the depleted resources in hand.

This is South Africa's batting talent waiting in the wings in the squad: JJ Smuts, Pite van Biljon, David Miller (suspected Covid), Janneman Malan and Kyle Verreynne. 

And while the above players are just options within the squad, there are the likes of Marco Marais, Wihaan Lubbe, Ryan Rickelton, Sinethemba Qeshile and Theunis de Bruyn on the sidelines, shining in domestic T20s. 

South Africa aren't exactly spoilt for choice, but their available options aren't so bad that they had to resort to ones they did against England.

The Temba, Rassie, Reeza issue

While Rassie van der Dussen and Reeza Hendricks have plundered runs in domestic T20s, the quality in the circuit isn't much to write home about. Secondly, both have similar playing styles, where they start slow and try to catch up later. But with limited big-hitting skills - Reeza is virtually non-existent and van der Dussen over-dependent on his leg-side hitting. Hence, the duo’s efforts to catch up often end up affecting the team.

Temba Bavuma, meanwhile, is a fluent scorer in any format but doesn't exactly have the gameplay to go over the top consistently in the powerplay against world-class bowling. Sure, he might get the odd 25-ball 40, but it's likely to come against ordinary attacks. However, there's still a sense in keeping him around because the ICC T20 World Cup is in India next year and he is a fine player of spin and syncs well with Quinton de Kock at the top. 

But in this build-up period, the Proteas should really be testing Janneman Malan who has gone big in the Mzansi Super League and in the domestic T20 competition. 

Like George Linde, JJ Smuts is another spin bowling all-rounder with big-hitting skills at the top. He isn't exactly a Henry Davids, but Smuts has enough quality compared to the ones in the eleven to get more chances.

The finishing

Sure Heinrich Klaasen is a good hitter, who has proven his credentials in franchise cricket too, but like David Miller, South Africa are misusing him. Klaasen needs time at the crease before he unleashes his power shots and the ideal time/position for him to bat is between the 9-12 overs or in the no.4 or no.5 slot. 

Miller was also pushed down the order by the Proteas when he has time and again shown he can be more destructive when given more time in the middle. However, Faf du Plessis, AB de Villiers and JP Duminy had all booked middle-order slots giving sufficient competition to Miller. Miller, though, could arguably have come above Duminy, who gets off the blocks quicker. 

The ideal South Africa top six from available options: Quinton de Kock, Janneman Malan, Faf du Plessis/Temba Bavuma, Theunis de Bruyn/Aiden Markram, Heinrich Klaasen, and David Miller. 

While South Africa could compete with the above six, they should ideally be keeping the likes of Marco Marais, Sinethemba Qeshile, Wihaan Lubbe and Ryan Rickelton in and around the setup.

Feature image courtesy: AFP / Rodger Bosch

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