Rampant Rilee Rossouw transforms into South Africa’s go-to man in T20Is

Rilee Rossouw’s brief international career seemed to be over in January 2017 when he decided to play as a local player for Hampshire as part of the Kolpak deal. To achieve this, he had to stop playing for South Africa at the age of 26, considering that moving to England would give long-term career security to himself and his family. The ploy went the other way as Rossouw failed to win with the county, resulting in him losing the Hampshire contract when the Kolpak decision finally ended at the end of 2020.

But Rossouw is not one of those who would give up so easily. The southpaw rejuvenated in the Pakistan Super League (PSL) earlier in January, scoring 275 runs in 10 innings at a strike rate of over 167 for Multan Sultans to help them finish second. Three months later, he silenced his critics in England by finishing second at the Vitality T20 Blast while representing Somerset. They reached the semi-finals there, but a painful defeat by their former county in Hampshire prevented Somerset from going further.

Rossouw’s performances in Pakistan and England franchise competitions won the respect of Cricket South Africa, who, along with their then manager Russell Domingo, backed him during his first stint between 2014 and 2016, even after seeing him go without scoring five times since his first 10 ODI. The board recalled Rossouw after six and a half years for their three-game T20I series against England in July-August. Since then, everything Rossouw touches turns to gold.

Rampant Rilee Rossouw transforms into South Africa's go-to man in T20IsRilee Rossouw is South Africa’s top scorer in T20I this year. © SportsCafé Graphics Team,

Most recently, Rossouw made headlines on Thursday by becoming the first South African to smash a hundred in a T20 World Cup. His aggressive instincts and self-confidence were on display throughout his 56-ball 109 career run against Bangladesh, during which he hit eight sixes and seven fours. His blitzkrieg was followed by the unbeaten 48-ball 100 he notched against India in Indore earlier this month. Therefore, with the latest success, he became the second man – only after Frenchman Gustav McKeon – to hit consecutive international hundreds in the shortest format. It wasn’t like no one expected the 33-year-old to go so strong against Bangladesh. After all, he’s leading the way among players with a 35+ average and 140+ strike rate in the T20I this year.

Rampant Rilee Rossouw transforms into South Africa's go-to man in T20Is
Rampant Rilee Rossouw transforms into South Africa's go-to man in T20IsRilee Rossouw’s strike rate of 184 is the highest in 2022 among players who have 35+ T20I averages © SportsCafe Graphics Team.

Before CSA introduced Rossouw into the fray, Rassie van der Dussen was South Africa’s favorite number 3 in T20I. Although van der Dussen’s overall numbers in this format are nowhere near as high as in the ODIs, he appears to be at the lowest point of his cricketing career in 2022 before breaking his left index finger ahead of the Cup of the world. Before that, he could only manage one substantial contribution (46 balls 75 not against India in Delhi) over six T20I rounds this year. Although that came in the cause of South Africa’s victory, his other shots, including 7-ball 10 and 4-ball 14 against Ireland and 7-ball 1 and 4-ball 1 against Ireland India, made no difference to him.

With a strike rate of 116.44 between 7 and 15 overs since 2018, van der Dussen’s numbers suggest he tends to play as an anchor. But having David Miller and Quinton de Kock already among the others, the Proteas needed a radical number 3, who dares to go wild from the start. So bringing Rossouw into the mix, who hits 198.72 in the middle overs, is no longer a problem for South Africa.

Rampant Rilee Rossouw transforms into South Africa's go-to man in T20Is
Rampant Rilee Rossouw transforms into South Africa's go-to man in T20IsRilee Rossouw’s numbers in Australia, and in PSL 2022, Vitality T20 Blast 2022. © SportsCafe Graphics Team.

Interestingly, every time Rossouw demonstrates his prowess in his second stint, South Africa ends up winning the contests. In South Africa’s four T20I victories since his return, Rossouw’s scores showed 55 96s not knocked out, 18 31s, followed by two centuries. On the other three occasions, when he went down without scoring and went cheaply for four runs, South Africa suffered two big-margin defeats. And in the other game, de Kock and Miller rallied together to avoid humiliation even though they couldn’t prevent defeat.

Although de Kock and Miller have been taking charge for South Africa for some time now, particularly in the T20Is. The left-handers, their all-time top scorers in this format, even topped the run-getter rankings in South Africa’s T20I series in India last month. However, their strike rates suggest (134.65 from Kock and 127.3 from Miller in the middle since 2018) that they prefer to take some time to establish themselves in the middle and try to flourish in the end. Thus, by facing Rossouw at No. 3, South Africa has the luxury of scoring more runs in the middle of the overs, which, at the same time, allows de Kock and Miller to play with more freedom. It certainly brings additional value alongside it.

Rampant Rilee Rossouw transforms into South Africa's go-to man in T20Is
Rampant Rilee Rossouw transforms into South Africa's go-to man in T20IsSouth Africa’s all-time goalscoring table in the T20I. © SportsCafe Graphics Team.

Unlike the last edition of the T20 World Cup in the United Arab Emirates, South Africa are well equipped in Australia this time at the showpiece event. The Proteas were well prepared even in their chase against Zimbabwe, but the rain snatched a point from their kitty. They boast one of the fiercest pace attacks, featuring Kagiso Rabada and Anrich Nortje among others, who can pay rich dividends in Australia, and Rossouw’s continued rise since the start of 2022 has made their even better batting unit. Sculpting the first century of the tournament, he has already made a name for himself at the T20 World Cup. Now, to stay remarkable, all it requires is consistency. If Rossouw is successful, there will be no greater fairy tale story than his journey.

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