Andile Phehlukwayo has never made a secret of the fact that Protea legend Lance Klusener is one of his cricketing idols.
The 21-year-old Proteas all-rounder certainly channeled his inner “Zulu” (Klusener’s nickname) when he smashed a freakish, unbeaten 23 off just five balls in last weekend’s PinkDay ODI against India at the Wanderers.
What impressed most observers was his ability to strike the ball cleanly against India’s vaunted spinners, particularly leggie Yuzvendra Chahal.
“I looked up to Lance. He was a true great,” Phehlukwayo said ahead of Tuesday’s crucial 4th ODI at St George’s Park in Port Elizabeth.
“Another obvious idol was Shaun Pollock, who was really good at playing spin. That’s the type of player I want to be. I want to contribute all round and win matches for my country. I want to be positive all the way.”
It’s rather ironic that Phehlukwayo should say that because in a very short international career to date, he’s actually shown a rare ability to stay extremely calm under pressure.
Here are a few examples of how that trait has gone a long way towards winning the Proteas matches.
Australia gets off to a flying start in the first of five ODIs, reaching 88/1 in the 13th over when Phehlukwayo, on debut, is brought into the attack.
His first delivery in international cricket is a horrible one, a rank long hop down leg.
But Aaron Finch mistimes his flick pull and Wayne Parnell makes a good grab at fine leg.
Three balls later, Phehlukwayo gets the big fish, Steve Smith, with a superb fuller delivery which the Aussie skipper misjudges and is trapped LBW.
He takes a further two to finish with figures with 4/44 as the visitors are stifled and South Africa win comfortably.
Phehlukwayo walks in with the Proteas still needing 107 runs from 12 overs with just four wickets in hand.
More pertinently, the target is a mammoth 372.
The rookie all-rounder looks edgy and all over the show.
In fact, he edges his first delivery to be caught behind but the umpires hear nothing and Australia don’t have a review left.
Despite only making 9 off his first 19 deliveries, Phehlukwayo coolly brushes off the pressure and suddenly finds his range.
Two beautiful lofted cover drives and complemented by another two muscular sixes as he makes an unbeaten 42 off 39, supporting David Miller superbly as the Proteas claim a fantastic victory.
On a pitch AB de Villiers described as one of the most difficult he had to bat on, Phehlukwayo makes things look easy.
The match is reduced to 34 overs per side and the Proteas have suffered a bit of a slump in a chase of 208.
Again, Phehlukwayo shrugs off a slow start but seems to have left it a bit late this time.
However, in the penultimate Trent Boult sends down a slower ball.
He gets underneath it and smashes it over long-on.
Things are still dicey in the last oveer before Phehlukwayo in essence mistimes a on-side slog for another six to settle the issue.
It’s not pretty but mightily effective.
The Proteas’ long tour of England is alreay spiralling out of control due to disappointing results.
In the second of three T20s, they seem on the verge of losing that battle early too.
But they claw their way back at the death, with Phehlukwayo producing a searing yorker to dismiss the dangerous Jos Buttler in the 18th overs.
He’s then tasked with defending 12 from the last over with England in a hurry.
Taking the bold approach, Phehlukwayo varies his length and lines as the home side struggles to truly get him away.
The pressure leads to a comical run out as the all-rounder and the Proteas keep their heads to win by three runs.