SOUTH AFRICA TOUR OF ENGLAND, 2022
Reeza Hendricks and Tabraiz Shamsi starred in South Africa’s T20I series win against England ©Getty
Last week at this time Quinton de Kock couldn’t hurt. Seven days later, he doesn’t seem to be able to do much right. A week ago, Reeza Hendricks was an edge player in white-ball internationals. Now he seems to be a fixture in the T20I side. Welcome, pilgrim, to the South Africa chapters of the Cricketwalker’s Guide to the Milky Way.
De Kock’s unbeaten 92 in the third ODI at Headingley last Sunday reduced the game’s flush to a star. When a batter plays as sublimely well as he does, like a Zen master at home in his garden, the result cannot matter. Don’t take our word for it. Here’s Socrates, the football philosopher-doctor: “Beauty comes first. Victory is secondary. What matters is joy.”
But in the T20I series that followed, De Kock made two, 15 and nothing – only his fourth duck in 66 innings in the format. He was out first all three times, something that hadn’t happened to him on his previous nine trips to the T20I fold if we count as one of them. Temba Bavuma who retired against India in Rajkot in June.
On Sunday (July 31), De Kock played an unusually indecisive drive to the third ball of the game and, with no runs on the backboard, David dragged Willey on his stump. De Kock was part of six opening T20I grandstands wiped out for naught, but Sunday marked the first time his resignation ended a barren partnership – he tended to be part of the solution, not the issue.
That is not to say that De Kock’s form is or will be a problem. He is South Africa’s leading points scorer among current players in the formats he still suffers from, clearly the best hitter of his generation in his country, and he’s nowhere near on steam or runs. So when he falters, we must pause for a moment to consider the magic of even the magnificent creature made mortal, if only for a moment.
Hendricks came to England after having played in less than a quarter of South Africa’s whiteball games – 67 out of a possible 278 – since making his debut in a T20I against Australia in Adelaide in November 2014. He starts with innings of 57, 53 and 70 in the T20I series and complicates the selection interview for the T20I World Cup in Australia in October and November.
The last South African player to hit a half-century hat-trick in T20Is was De Kock, who scored 72, 60 and 60 against the West Indies in Grenada in June and July 2021. Hashim Amla and Aiden Markram were the only other South Africans on that list for this series. If Hendricks joins in, Victor Mpitsang and his panel will sit up and notice. Hendricks was probably already on board for the World Cup, but now he has seriously laid claim to a place as first-choice opener. Where is Bavuma, who as a captain is at least as valuable to his team as a batter?
But such mature questions can wait. Sunday’s emphatic victory in Southampton was the crowning glory of a run South Africa looked far from winning when they were still in charge in Bristol on Wednesday. Their 90-run win is their second biggest in T20Is and rivals India’s victory in Colombo in September 2012 as England’s worst defeat. It is also only South Africa’s second win in the eight bilateral white-ball rubbers they’ve played in England, and their first since 1998.
This convincing success was achieved thanks to a total of 191/5, with Hendricks sharing 55 out of 35 with Rilee Rossouw and 87 out of 61 with Markram, who made 51 out of 36 in his lone innings of the series and went on for 41 out 17 to set up with David Miller. Then Tabraiz Shamsi – who was hit for 49 from three wicketless overs in the first match – took a career-best 5/24, making him the leading wicket-taker of the series at his 3/27 in Cardiff on Thursday.
“One day it’s my job, the next day someone else is taking wickets,” he said during his televised interview about recovering from his bruises in Bristol. He also revealed a nugget of healthy homeliness: “My wife said she wants four wickets from me today, like you can buy wickets at the supermarket.”
Bowling with fine control over his variations, Shamsi struck all five as England lost their last eight wickets for 49 runs before crashing to 101 all-out in 16.4 overs. Only in three of their 154 T20Is have they been fired for lower totals.
It was a comeback, Shamsi told a press conference, built on silence: “Credit goes to management and all the players because nobody even had a word with me. [after the first match]. That’s the best way to deal with something like that. It’s an anomaly. In a field like Bristol, which may seem bigger on TV, these things happen. We play T20 cricket against world class players, and things like that can happen from time to time. I don’t think there was much to think about. I’ve focused on what I know I can do best.”
David Miller confirmed Shamsi’s version in his press release: “We know the bowler he is, we know what he’s capable of. Building his confidence rather than telling him what to do because he knows what to do.”
Eoin Morgan, on television commentary, agreed that England’s battle on Sunday had been “timid”. Even Jonny Bairstow, whose 30-ball 27 bore no resemblance to the 90 he had hammered 53 deliveries four days earlier using significantly smaller limits, seemed frozen in the headlights of the South Africans’ revival.
Sunday’s result means England’s only series wins in the past year have come in a test series against New Zealand at home in June and, in the same month, an ODI rubber in the Netherlands. In that time they have lost Test series to Australia and the West Indies, an ODI deal with India and T20I rubbers against the West Indies, India and now South Africa.
So the home side would have been warmed by Shamsi’s respect for them: “When you play against a team like England it’s very important to have a strong heart. They can hit sixes and ruin your day.”
If that doesn’t ease their concerns, Douglas Adams had advice for them in: The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy: “Do not panic.”