Cricket: South Africa unearth diamond in Andile Phehlukwayo

By David Leggat

South Africa's Andile Phehlukwayo hits a six in the final over of Sunday's ODI against New Zealand at Seddon Park. Photo / Photosport.
South Africa's Andile Phehlukwayo hits a six in the final over of Sunday's ODI against New Zealand at Seddon Park. Photo / Photosport.

One of the aims of South Africa's tour of New Zealand is to develop players with an eye on the Champions Trophy in June and beyond.

So step up Andile Phehlukwayo, a 20-year-old allrounder from Natal, who showed what a cool head and a good eye can do in a tight spot.

The man, whose middle name is Lucky, showed he's anything but as he slugged Tim Southee for six back off the second ball of the last over, when South Africa needed 12 to win the opening ODI at Seddon Park.

He finished on an unbeaten 29, sharing a match-winning stand of 54 with the champion AB de Villiers.

It's the second time in just 11 ODIs that Phehlukwayo has played a significant part in an ODI win, the first coming against Australia at Durban last October. His 42 not out that day was part of a 107-run stand with another left-hander, David Miller, in 79 balls as South Africa climbed to 372 for six and chased down an imposing target.

"It was really exciting. I've never batted with him before," a dead chuffed Phehlukwayo said of batting with de Villiers.

"I was trying to keep myself really calm. Everyone knows his abilities but I've learned a lot from him in terms of game plans and how I need to train."

His medium pace bowling is serviceable but it's clear there is talent in the young man whose first sporting passion was hockey. He came to cricket relatively late but is making up for lost time.

De Villiers praised the young man's ability to judge the pace of the Seddon Park pitch on a difficult night for batting. As you might expect, Phehlukwayo shrugged that assessment aside.

"From the side it may have looked like that, but I was just trying to watch the ball and pick what they were trying to do, swing really hard and hit straight."

The last-over six was a killer for New Zealand. They had likely figured if they could keep de Villiers off strike they'd have a good chance of winning.

"I was just really happy that I was able to execute well in a pressured situation and I would like to do that consistently."

There was a time when fielding teams could be confident if the batting side had, say, 26 to win off the last three overs. These days, with the advances in T20 batting skills, good batting groups will knock that off with an over to spare.

"It was very impressive the way Andile played," de Villiers said. "He was hitting it pretty sweet. There's a lot of talent in that young man and I'm looking forward to see him grow into a really good cricketer."

There's work to be done. His bowling is serviceable but he needs to lift his pace. But South Africa rightly figure they may have uncovered another diamond for years to come.

- NZ Herald

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