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South African fringe players shine in Champions League T20

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south_africa_celebrateRest and recuperation seems to have been the perfect preparation for the Proteas' squad ahead of the two limited overs series against Australia next month. Far from being rusty and generally underdone the South African players have hit the ground running at full steam during the first weekend of the Nokia Champions League T20 in India. And this applies not only to current Proteas but those on the fringes of promotion as well.

South African players won the Man of the Match award in four of the first five matches with Ashwell Prince and Jon-Jon Smuts (Chevrolet Warriors), Herschelle Gibbs (Nashua Mobile Cape Cobras) and Roelof van der Merwe (Somerset) doing the honours. The Warriors have won both their matches to date and the Cobras will be out to emulate them when they play their second match against the defending champions, the Chennai Super Kings, on Wednesday.

Van der Merwe, who has been out of the national selectors' plans recently, made a particularly strong statement. His match-winning innings against the Kolkata Knight Riders of 73 off 40 balls (9 fours and 2 sixes) showed how much his batting has matured. He is being far more selective in choosing the right deliveries to attack and his ability to hit reverse sweeps for six says a lot for the power that is packed into his relatively small frame.

What was even more significant was his bowling at ‘the death' when he had to take on two acknowledged champions in Jacques Kallis and Yusuf Pathan. During those final two overs he conceded minimal runs and had two catches dropped in the deep. His overall figures of four overs for 21 runs spoke for themselves. He also bowled an over in the power play and conceded only two boundaries in his four overs.

If Van der Merwe had not won the Man of the Match award it would assuredly have gone to Kallis for his 74 off 61 balls with four fours and four sixes.

There have been two stand-out features of the Warriors and Cobras to date. The one is that they have produced genuine team efforts; the other is that their bowling attacks have been particularly outstanding. This is extremely relevant looking ahead to next year's ICC World Twenty20.

This format may be a batsman's game but the only way to keep the scoring rate in check is by taking wickets often and regularly.

Van der Merwe is not the only ‘outsider' knocking on the door. Mark Boucher is a man on a mission, both Smuts and Richard Levi have put down impressive markers and Wayne Parnell is well on the way back after his lengthy injury problems.

Both he and Kallis are looking in exceptionally good nick. Parnell has regularly bowled above 140km/h with a top speed of 144 and any left-hander who can bowl at that pace and also produce late conventional swing and reverse swing is going to be mightily effective.

The fast bowling resources are looking good, particularly for limited overs matches. Lonwabo Tsotsobe and Rusty Theron have both started well for the Warriors as has Vernon Philander for the Cobras.

File Photograph Copyright: ICC World T20