Wed, 26 Jun 2019

Cape Town - Since falling to one of their most disastrous Test series results back in February, the Proteas have bounced back to wallop Sri Lanka 5-0 in the ODI series and then 3-0 in the recently-completed T20Is.

While they made history on these shores with two famous Tests wins in Durban and Port Elizabeth, Sri Lanka were flat on the white-ball segment of their tour, and South Africa will undoubtedly face far sterner opposition at the World Cup.

The opposition may have been tame for large parts, but the exercise was still a worthwhile one for the Proteas.

Quinton de Kock, Aiden Markram and Reeza Hendricks have all found form, Dwaine Pretorius showed his capabilities with the bat, Andile Phehlukwayo is looking a serious wicket-taking option and Imran Tahir has rediscovered his best too.

Perhaps the biggest positive for South Africa, though, has been how seamlessly JP Duminy has slotted back into this side.

March has been a big month for the 34-year-old.

Out with a shoulder injury since October last year, Duminy only returned to professional cricket at the start of the month with a lot to prove.

His shoulder is not yet at 100%, but Duminy's batting these last few weeks has afforded Proteas fans a sigh of relief.

Two half-centuries in his first three comeback matches for the Cape Cobras in the One Day Cup were followed by a knock 31* in his first ODI back in Port Elizabeth.

It is in these last two T20Is, though, where Duminy has shown just how destructive he can be.

Knocks of 33* (17) and 34* (14) will hardly be remembered in the years to come, but they have very clearly illustrated that Duminy is somewhere near the top of his game with bat in hand.

From a South African perspective, that is massively important going into the World Cup.

Given the balance of this team, Duminy will be required to bowl a fair portion of overs in England. He is also one of the most experienced members of the squad and has natural leadership ability.

When one factors all of that in with his role as a specialist top order batsman, then it is easy to see why Duminy is so key to the South African charge in England.

He can bat anywhere in the middle order and is versatile enough to shift between No 4 and No 7, depending on the match situation.

Duminy can consolidate if he needs to, he has an ability to keep the scoreboard ticking over and, crucially, he finds the fence with relative ease. That much was clear from watching him play in the final two T20Is, but it is his ability to change gears that makes him so valuable.

There are many, and there have been many over the years, who have continued to question Duminy's ability to play match-winning innings for his country.

He finished his Test career with a modest average of 32.85 and that number gives merit to such arguments.

It is hard to find fault with his white-ball returns, though.

Duminy is comfortably South Africa's leading run-scorer in T20Is with 1934 at an average of 38.68.

He is also one of only 10 South Africans to have scored over 5000 ODI runs, and he has done that at an average of 37.38.

"The injury set him back a bit in terms of game time and we just wanted to get back on the field," Proteas coach Ottis Gibson said of Duminy after Sunday's T20 win against Sri Lanka in Johannesburg.

"His shoulder is improving daily, but his form is carrying on.

"He's a very dangerous player for us, whether it's in T20Is or the 50-over game.

"He's still got another couple of months to get himself to 100% with his shoulder, but his form with the bat has been fantastic."

In the build-up to the World Cup, the uncertainty surrounding Duminy's fitness has been one of the major talking points from a South African perspective, but those worries can now safely be put to be bed.

With Duminy and David Miller coming in at No 5 and No 6, South Africa can rest easy in the knowledge that they have destructive and experienced players in those positions.

There are still several other issues to ponder - Hashim Amla's availability, Markram's role and injuries to Lungi Ngidi and Anrich Nortje.

Duminy, though, is one box ticked.

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