Without de Villiers, pressure on middle order

DUNCAN JOHNSTONE
Last updated 10:24 19/12/2012
AB de Villiers
Getty Images
SITTING OUT: With AB de Villiers resting a sore back for the Twenty20 series against New Zealand, pressure now goes on a raw Proteas middle order.

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The Proteas are demanding their untested middle order stand tall against New Zealand in the Twenty20 series after South Africa unexpectedly lost star batsman AB de Villiers.

De Villiers, the ultra-smooth run machine, has pulled out of the three T20s starting in Durban on Saturday (NZ time), citing a need for rest ahead of the test series.

"It's been an exhausting few months and I feel that I need some extra rest before the test series," De Villiers said.

"It's for this reason that I have put in the request and I'm grateful to the team management for supporting this decision."

Batsman Justin Ontong has been brought into the T20 squad as cover.

De Villiers, who also keeps wickets, has complained of a sore back for some time.

His absence will certainly help the Black Caps who got a confidence booster today when they beat a South African XI by 24 runs in their warmup match in Pietermaritzburg.

Farrhaan Behardien - who suddenly takes on senior status in the raw Proteas middle order - sees the unexpected situation as a great opportunity for the other players to prove themselves.

"It's definitely an opportunity for the guys to showcase their talent and what they have learnt over the past few years," Behardien said.

"David Miller played a T20 County stint at Yorkshire and did really well, so he has learnt his trade a little bit more since his debut a few years ago.

"Faf (du Plessis) is in good form, even though it was in a test match. He seems to be in a good space with his batting ... he scored 65 in his last T20 innings against India in Sri Lanka.

"And myself, I'm there to assess the risk and to assess what the team needs going forward in the innings. David

Millar and Justin Ontong are guys that have proven that they can hit the ball far, Faf has proven that he can hit the ball far as well.

"But without AB there, it is our opportunity to show (coaches) Russell (Domingo) and Gary (Kirsten) that we can step it up in an international series and that there are resources in the country."

Quinton de Kock, who was wicketkeeper for South Africa at the under-19 World Cup this year, will be behind the stumps for the T20s.

Proteas manager Mohammed Moosajee suggested some of the team's superstars would be used carefully in the series against  the Black Caps after their big year and said the decision to remove de Villiers from the T20s was merely precautionary

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"There is nothing imminently wrong with his back, it is just about managing workload," Mohammed Moosajee told the Cricinfo website.

"The plan is to rotate players like Morne Morkel, Dale Steyn, Jacques Kallis and Hashim Amla because of the schedule.

"Morne and Dale will probably only play one or two matches each. With AB, it's about getting his mindset right and getting him energised. It's physical and mental."

In another change to the squad, allrounder Ryan McLaren has replaced left-arm quick bowler Wayne Parnell who has a wrist injury.

Revised Proteas Twenty20 squad: Faf du Plessis (capt), Farhaan Behardien, Henry Davids, Quinton de Kock, Justin Ontong, Rory Kleinveldt, Richard Levi, Ryan McLaren, David Miller, Morne Morkel, Chris Morris, Robin Peterson, Aaron Phangiso, Dale Steyn, Lonwabo Tsotsobe.

- Fairfax Media

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