David Miller starred with 41 off 23 balls before striking a six and a four off Lasith Malinga in the Super Over in South Africa’s thrilling win in the first Twenty20 International against Sri Lanka, but his “near-perfect” work behind the stumps stood out just as much.
The match in Cape Town on Tuesday, 19 March, was the first in which Miller played as designated wicket-keeper. He had taken the gloves in an interim capacity during the ODI leg of the tour.
Miller took a catch off Dale Steyn to dismiss opener Niroshan Dickwella, stumped Kamindu Mendis, did well to read leg-spinner Imran Tahir’s variations correctly, and did not concede a bye.
His captain, for one, was delighted at a “big risk” paying off. “We back David with the gloves and we are working with him behind the scenes,” Faf du Plessis said after the game. “We need to explore our options as a squad, and him as wicket-keeper is one of them. He had a near-perfect day behind the stumps.”
Miller, for his part, admitted to excitement and relief. “It wasn’t a shock, but a lot of excitement and emotion. It’s a new challenge that I’ve been asked to do, and I’m not going to turn down,” he told reporters. “It’s not ‘natural’. I’ve been ‘keeper in the past when growing up, but [that’s] not professional cricket. [I’m] as comfortable as I can feel. I’ve prepped pretty well.”
Miller was as satisfied with his efforts with the bat. Not having got a chance to spend as much time in the middle as he’d have liked to in the ODIs, he was glad to contribute, although he admitted that he gave away his wicket at a crucial time.
Rassie van der Dussen and he had the target of 135 in sight, when in the 17th over both of them were dismissed, with Miller being run out. It triggered a collapse, as South Africa went from 118/3 to 133/8.
“It was a tough wicket at the end,” said Miller. “It was a serious collapse we did have, but saying that, they bowled really well with the slower balls and I don’t think we adapted well enough. At the end, we were lucky to get into the Super Over. But the last two-three overs ebbed and flowed.”
In the result, du Plessis saw potential for learning to play under pressure. “That was great fun – the series needed a bit of a tight finish,” he said. “Both teams were under pressure to see how they would respond. We didn’t do well with the bat in the last five or six overs, but getting that chance in the end in the Super Over was good for us.”
Lasith Malinga, the Sri Lanka captain, had been as dangerous as ever as he returned a remarkable 2/11 in his four overs. However, Malinga’s variations didn’t pay off in the Super Over. “[It was a] good game, that’s the way T20 should go, an interesting game,” he said, acknowledging that it would be an important experience for the youngsters in his side.
“Bowlers have to learn their variations, situation-handling, confidence, patience – it’s a short game but they have to learn a lot.”