Mzansi Super League draft – The Finishers

AB de Villiers of the Tshwane Spartans during the Mzansi Super League match between Tshwane Spartans and Durban Heat at SuperSport Park on December 12, 2018 in Pretoria, South Africa. (Photo by Lee Warren/Gallo Images)

Like a flyhalf, T20 cricket requires a nerveless, precise finisher to clinch a tight game. Who’ll be the best in that regard this season?

Like a flyhalf who has a potentially matchwinning kick at goal in the Rugby World Cup final, T20 cricket demands nerveless, precise finishers and their presence in the various Mzansi Super League squads that were decided at the draft in Soweto on Tuesday will be crucial to the outcome of the second edition of the tournament.

Gary Kirsten, the new Durban Heat coach and the man who steered India to their 2011 World Cup crown under immense pressure, was certainly stressing the importance of the cerebral after the draft.

“Great resilience and smartness is what T20 cricket demands, it’s not just about talent, you need clever players. We have a guy like Ravi Bopara, who has a lot of experience and bats six and closes out games, but someone like Farhaan Behardien [who was snapped up by Eric Simons for the NMB Giants] was in our plans too, that’s the kind of guy you want,” Kirsten said.

So who are the finishers for the various MSL franchises?

Durban Heat

Andile Phehlukwayo of the Cape Town Blitz sends down a delivery during the Mzansi Super League final match between Cape Town Blitz and Jozi Stars at PPC Newlands on December 16, 2018 in Cape Town, South Africa. (Photo by Shaun Roy/Gallo Images)

BatsmenRavi Bopara, David Miller, Dane Vilas, Andile Phehlukwayo

BowlersKyle Abbott, Andile Phehlukwayo, Malusi Siboto

Wicketkeeper/batsman Vilas was surprisingly not retained by the Jozi Stars, who he led to the inaugural title last year. He has been based in Durban since the 2017/18 season and has been in good form over the winter for Lancashire. All local players know not to underestimate him.

South African fans may have a low estimation of English all-rounder Bopara, but it is not shared by Kirsten: “He’s had an unbelievable T20 Blast batting at six and closing out games and he offers a lot with the ball, he’ll do really well on the slower Kingsmead pitch, plus he has a lot of experience.”

Left-handers Miller and Phehlukwayo have a very good history when it comes to finishing games together with the bat at Kingsmead.

Sub-tropical Durban has a pitch that is often reminiscent of a sago pudding, and that will also perfectly suit the tremendous variety of death bowling that Phehlukwayo brings, as well as the medium-pace of Siboto.

Abbott is also a very good death bowler, possessing a potent yorker as well as the ability to hit the deck hard.

Tshwane Spartans

Roelof van der Merwe of Somerset bowls during the Royal London One Day Cup match between Somerset and Hampshire at The Cooper Associates County Ground on May 05, 2019 in Taunton, England. (Photo by Alex Davidson/Getty Images)

BatsmenAB de Villiers, Heinrich Klaasen, Pite van Biljon

BowlersLungi Ngidi, Morne Morkel, Roelof van der Merwe

De Villiers, who is seemingly able to play any stroke to any part of the field, Klaasen, who can clear the boundary once set, and Van Biljon, an excellent manager of the chase, bring diverse skills to the Spartans middle-order, meaning the Tshwane team should have finishers for every situation.

Coach Mark Boucher is hoping for an old school SuperSport Park pitch with plenty of pace and bounce, and that will suit Morkel and Ngidi to a T, although neither of them must neglect the yorkers they are both so good at bowling. Van der Merwe is one of those special spinners who does not shirk bowling at the death, he is the type of cricketer who dives right into every tough situation.

Nelson Mandela Bay Giants

Chris Morris of Nelson Mandela Bay Giants during the Mzansi Super League match between Nelson Mandela Bay Giants and Durban Heat at St Georges Park on November 23, 2018 in Port Elizabeth, South Africa. (Photo by Richard Huggard/Gallo Images)

BatsmenFarhaan Behardien, Marco Marais, Chris Morris

Bowlers Beuran Hendricks, Nandre Burger, Imran Tahir

With Behardien so adept at managing the run-chase – he can play both the manipulating game and clear the boundary – big-hitters Marais and Morris will be freed up to really have a dip at the bowling. That makes the Giants very dangerous.

Two left-arm pacemen in Hendricks and Burger is nothing to laugh at, plus champion leg-spinner Tahir is the real joker in the pack, able to bowl up front, in the middle and even at the death.

Paarl Rocks

Mangaliso Mosehle of Paarl Rocks during the Mzansi Super League match between Nelson Mandela Bay Giants and Paarl Rocks at St Georges Park on November 30, 2018 in Port Elizabeth, South Africa. (Photo by Michael Sheehan/Gallo Images)

Batsmen JP Duminy, Dwaine Pretorius, Mangaliso Mosehle

Bowlers Ferisco Adams, Isuru Udana, Hardus Viljoen

The vastly experienced Duminy will be given the role of managing the back end of the innings, something he is very familiar with. Pretorius and Mosehle have both shown in the past that they wield mighty logs of wood when it comes to hitting boundaries.

Sri Lankan left-arm quick Udana is definitely an option in the death overs on a Paarl pitch that usually features an absence of pace and bounce, while Adams brings an array of varieties and no pace on the ball. Viljoen has blinding pace in anyone’s language, but he will need to be able to bowl his yorker consistently.

Cape Town Blitz

Wahab Riaz of Pakistan runs into bowl during the Group Stage match of the ICC Cricket World Cup 2019 between West Indies and Pakistan at Trent Bridge on May 31, 2019 in Nottingham, England. (Photo by Nathan Stirk/Getty Images)

BatsmenMohammad Nawaz, George Linde, Vernon Philander

Bowlers Wahab Riaz, Sisanda Magala

Pakistani all-rounder Nawaz played a series of face-saving innings for the Blitz last season, and coach Ashwell Prince admitted the rest of the middle-order needed to provide better support. There are high hopes that Linde and Philander, who has been acquired from the Durban Heat, can make the difference this year.

The Blitz have ditched Dawid Malan as their overseas marquee player after his disappointing return of just 60 runs in seven innings with the bat, choosing Pakistan fast bowler Wahab instead. Both he and Magala are fiery bowlers who are deceptively quick and specialists at the death. Magala was the best pace bowler for the NMB Giants last season.

Jozi Stars

Daniel Christian of the Jozi Stars during the Mzansi Super League match between Jozi Stars and Durban Heat at Bidvest Wanderers Stadium on November 30, 2018in Johannesburg, South Africa. (Photo by Lee Warren/Gallo Images via Getty Images)

Batsmen Rassie van der Dussen, Dan Christian

BowlersKagiso Rabada, Nono Pongolo

The Proteas best batsman at the World Cup and the leading run-scorer in last year’s MSL, Van der Dussen is the ideal finisher, able to push the ball around and also clear the boundary. Australian all-rounder Christian was one of the major reasons the Jozi Stars won the title last year, having the temperament and range of strokes to succeed in the chase.

Rabada has arguably the most weapons at his disposal out of all the fast bowlers in the tournament and the Jozi Stars will back him to produce the goods at the death more often than not. But it was medium-pacer Pongolo who often showed the most nerve, having the priceless ability to just get the job done, often taking wickets along the way.

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