“Phehlukwayo is 22 and has his entire career ahead of him. He is already an established limited-overs cricketer and is making his way into the Test side as well. He is certainly making steady progress”
South Africa put up another dominant performance in the ODI series against Sri Lanka at Dambulla to take a 2-0 lead. It was once again their bowlers who stepped up to the plate and managed to restrict Sri Lanka to a below-par total. While the fast bowlers failed to do much damage in the Test series, they have come into their own in the ODI series and have given South Africa a great advantage going into the third ODI. You have the likes of Kagiso Rabada and Lungi Ngidi who set things up beautifully in the opening stages, but the Proteas also have someone like Andile Phehlukwayo, who quietly goes about his job and does not get noticed much.
You have a bad day or an exceptional day the world notices. However, when you manage to pick up a wicket or two, keep the runs down and also chip in with a valuable 25-30 runs with the bat, for some reason, the focus is not on you. That is the case of Phehlukwayo as well. Phehlukwayo is not someone who can bowl express pace, but his strength remains variations. Especially the one he bowls by releasing the ball from his fingertips. The pace of the ball is considerably slow and it has deceived many batsmen, just like it did on Wednesday. The best part about this variation is that there is no change in his bowling action or his run-up, making it all the more difficult for the batsmen to figure out if it’s his stock ball or one of his variations.
Many bowlers use the knuckleball, roll their wrist around the ball or even bowl off-spinners to confuse the batsman. But Phehlukwayo has found a clever delivery of his own and it will surely continue to fool batsmen in the future as well.
The recent retirement of AB de Villiers left many stunned, considering it was just about a year before the ICC World Cup 2019. It is going to be difficult to find a good replacement for him anytime soon. While Phehlukwayo is in no way a replacement to de Villiers when it comes to batting, the fact that he can score valuable runs adds o South Africa’s depth. South Africa also have an able all-rounder in Willem Mulder and with Phehlukwayo batting below Mulder at 8, further strengthens them. South Africa are not short of fast bowling all-rounders. They have Chris Morris and Dwaine Pretorius to name a few. Hence, the fight for one or two spots in the team is going to be a fierce one. We have seen a glimpse what Phehlukwayo can do in the recent past.
Phehlukwayo’s talents were noticed at a young age. He was part of the South Africa squad for the U-19World Cup 2014, then was part if the Dolphins’ squad for the Champions League T20 and in 2015-16 was Dolphins’ leading wicket-taker in the 20-over contest. After a successful stint with South Africa A on their tours of Australia and Zimbabwe, he was given an ODI call-up at the age of 20.
Phehlukwayo was outstanding in the ODI series against Australia at home, finishing as the leading wicket-taker – A series in which Australia were whitewashed 5-0. He also showed his prowess with the bat down the order scoring 66 in three innings with the highest score of 42 not out.
His 23 not out of 5 deliveries or his unbeaten 34 off 42 in the ODIs against India recently also have shown that he can bat well according to the situation. If he keeps himself injure-free, he could become a valuable asset in all departments for South Africa over the next couple of years.
While it is bowling that has earned Phehlukwayo a spot in the side, he has proved that he is no mug with the bart. He can be the finisher that South Africa need. He has never batted above 7 in his brief career so far, but with time and experience, he can hopefully hone himself into a capable and reliaible batsman as well.
Phehlukwayo is 22 and has his entire career ahead of him. He is already an established limited-overs cricketer and is making his way into the Test side as well. He is certainly making steady progress.