By Anand Vasu in Chittagong
“As a blueprint of a T20 innings, that's one of the better ones you will see,” says Faf du Plessis about Duminy’s unbeaten 43-ball 86
On a day when it posted 170, a sizeable score, thanks mainly to an effervescent unbeaten 86 from JP Duminy, albeit well supported by Hashim Amla, South Africa still needed a special bowling performance from Dale Steyn to seal the deal against New Zealand in their World Twenty20 game on Monday (March 24).
Steyn ended with 4 for 17 from his four overs, successfully defending in the final over when New Zealand needed only seven runs and still had a set Ross Taylor at the crease. Yet, it was Duminy who walked away with the Man of the Match award, for the manner in which he set up the game.
Duminy, who batted at No. 3 in South Africa’s tight loss to Sri Lanka, came in at No. 5 against New Zealand and paced his innings magnificently. “I’m pretty happy to be flexible. It just creates a vibe amongst the team. Everybody has a specific role, yes, but if we can perform different roles at different positions, it stands us in good stead going forward,” said Duminy. “Tactically, we wanted to keep the left-right combination going, so I went in at No. 3 in the first game. As many spinners as Sri Lanka has, that made sense. With Faf (du Plessis) coming back in this game he was always going to bat at No. 3 and me at 5. I’m happy to be flexible. Whatever benefits the team the most.”
South Africa began indifferently once more, with both du Plessis and AB de Villiers failing to fire. With this being the case, Amla, who made 41 at a shade better than a run a ball, was forced to drop anchor. “Hashim's role is to bat with someone. If someone else on the other side keeps scoring boundaries, Hashim can be the structure and the solidness through the batting line-up,” explained du Plessis. "If we look at our top five, it's made up of guys who, apart from Hashim, naturally play aggressively so he fits into that game plan. It's his role to manoeuvre the rest of the innings. If there is a day where those guys don't score runs then Hashim knows that he has to play a little bit quicker.”
Du Plessis explained that the game plan was for the top order to put down a sound platform, allowing explosive batsmen to come in and do their thing in the back half. “Hashim had to stay with JP for a period of time to make sure that our hitters at the back didn't come in when there were too many balls left,” said du Plessis. “We need to make sure we have David Miller and Albie Morkel coming in towards the end of the innings not when they have to still worry about rotating the strike but where they can just play their natural game.”
The South Africa captain was all praise for the hand Duminy played. “JP controlled the innings beautifully. He took risks when it was needed and made sure the strike was rotated,” said du Plessis. “As a blueprint of a T20 innings, that's one of the better ones you will see.”
While Duminy looked back at his innings with some satisfaction, it was the fact that it contributed to a win, and not the runs themselves, that gave him the most satisfaction. “If you look at it now, it’s huge. But if Dale and the other bowlers didn’t produce something, as they did, in the last three overs, it wouldn’t have meant much. I’m pretty happy with the innings, because it gave us a chance to defend,” said Duminy.
“At one stage we really didn’t think we’d get to 170. A couple of good shots in the end got us there. Happy with the innings, but more happy with the way we stuck to our guns. Most teams would have rolled over in the last over. Faf mentioned the over Dale bowled in the last over. The gamechanger for me was the last three balls Morne (Morkel) bowled in the 19th over. To go for runs in the first three and to still have the composure to deliver three decent balls was exceptional to see.”
For Duminy, who has been in the international game a decade, the departures of Jacques Kallis and Graeme Smith has created a need to step up. “Ten years seems a long time, doesn’t it? Look, I did miss quite a few years in the middle period. But I guess there is an added responsibility now,” he said. “It’s a different sort of generation coming through of senior players. We know that it’s up to us to take the team forward. That’s what we aim to do as a senior unit. I think we’re on the right path. There’s no guarantees to success but as long as we as a team are giving 100% out there we’ll give ourselves the best chance.”
Duminy joined du Plessis in defending South Africa’s safety-first approach to building an innings. “In a perfect world you want that freedom to just express yourself. But, with freedom comes a little bit of responsibility. We’re finding the right mix and if we can perfect that going forward we definitely stand a good chance of producing results, especially in these kind of tournaments,” said Duminy. “Faf mentioned earlier that it’s about peaking at the right time. We’re on the right path. We have two big games coming up and if we can produce the results, as we did in the last two games, we’ll definitely give ourselves a good chance.”