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5 things we learned from the Proteas opening T20 World Cup loss: Rassie van der Dussen must bat at No 3

Australia's Josh Hazlewood celebrates after taking the wicket of South Africa's Rassie van der Dussen. Photo: Hamad I Mohammed/Reuters

Australia's Josh Hazlewood celebrates after taking the wicket of South Africa's Rassie van der Dussen. Photo: Hamad I Mohammed/Reuters

Published Oct 24, 2021


Abu Dhabi The Proteas slipped to an opening T20 World Cup defeat to Australia on Saturday. Their climb out of Group 1 has now become even steeper.

IOL Sport's Zaahier Adams, who is on the ground in the UAE covering all South Africa's matches, takes five learnings from the opener.

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1. Team balance

The composition of South Africa's team has been a persistent point of concern for a period of time now. Ultimately the selectors opted for two fast bowlers (Anrich Nortje and Kagiso Rabada), two specialist spinners (Keshav Maharaj and Tabraiz Shamsi) and one of their seam-bowling all-rounders (Dwaine Pretorius) along with the six specialist batsmen. It's the most complete combination with Aiden Markram the sixth bowling option required if need be, but it does mean the third specialist spin bowler, Bjorn Fortuin, can't be accommodated which has been the foundation of their success in recent times. It will be interesting to see how they roll the dice going forward.

ALSO READ: Proteas ratings ... Aiden Markram, bowlers can hold heads high after T20 World Cup opener

2. Batting

Powerplay (1-6): 29/3. South Africa's worst first six-overs since 2019.

Middle overs (7-15): 83/7. Only a further 54 runs added for the loss of four more wickets.

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Death (16-20): 118/9. Another 35 were scored and two wickets lost.

Anyway the numbers are broken up South Africa produced a poor effort with the bat and ultimately paid the price for it. Even captain Temba Bavuma admitted a par score was closer to 160 than 120 which they managed. Australia's bowling unit is solid with world-class fast bowlers and good spinners, but there is nothing mysterious about their attack. It was a feeble effort with the bat from the Proteas and an basic component of their game which simply has to improve - and quickly - if they are to make any sort of impression at this T20 World Cup.

3. Rassie van der Dussen at No 3

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The plan did not work on Saturday but if South Africa are to get the best out of Van der Dussen then thats where he needs to bat, especially if the Proteas' lose captain Bavuma early. It may seem unfair on Aiden Markram to be shifted around all the time, but Van der Dussen offers the team much more coming in early than walking to the crease with a few overs remaining. I would still like to see Markram coming in at first-drop which will allow him to dicate the innings, but South Africa are needing to find ways of cutting their suit with the cloth they have at their disposal.

ALSO READ: Temba Bavuma: Proteas batting didn’t go to plan in T20 World Cup opener

4. Kagiso Rabada

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A much better performance from South Africa's talisman, and he would certainly have enjoyed winning the personal battle with David Warner, but Kagiso Rabada is still not performing at his peak for South Africa at major events. This is now his fourth ICC tournament (2016 T20 World Cup, 2017 Champions Trophy, 2019 World Cup) and he is yet to put in a Player of the Match performance for the Proteas. It is at events such as these that players' legacies are formed. He had an opportunity on Saturday, and started well enough, but then conceded 11 runs (two boundaries) in the 17th over when the game was in the balance. Rabada has never needed to prove anything to anyone throughout his career, but that time is now where he needs to show that he does indeed belong at the elite table of modern-day cricketers.

5. Oh Faf!

It does seem strange that a player who is not even at this T20 World Cup trends on social media throughout the game, but that's exactly the point. Why is Faf du Plessis not in the UAE? The reasons have been explained for Du Plessis' omission, but the facts were glaring everyone in the face during South Africa's innings. Regardless if the bowlers had managed to squeeze out a victory over the Aussies, there is no question that the former captain Du Plessis bolsters the feeble Proteas batting unit.