Nothing scares Andile Phehlukwayo. At least, not when he’s on a cricket ground. No matter who he’s bowling to or facing, Phehlukwayo is as calm as a glass of milk.
It’s a quality that can fool even more serious students of the game into believing that he doesn’t have much to offer as a player. But a less blinkered look at his nagging medium pace and unruffled big hitting marks him out as that rare being: a South African who refuses to panic.
In just his second ODI, against Australia in Centurion in September 2016, he counted the wickets of Aaron Finch, Steve Smith and Mitchell Marsh in his haul of 4/44. A match later, his unbeaten 42 helped centurion David Miller guide South Africa to victory. The eight wickets Phehlukwayo took in those five games made him the highest wicket-taker on either side in that series.
Doubters waited for the bubble to burst but it hasn’t, and few now argue that Phehlukwayo isn’t South Africa’s first-choice white-ball all-rounder. Bowling remains his strong suit. He brings a cunning slower ball to the equation and is as unperturbed bowling at the death. On the contrary, like most purveyors of that dark art, he welcomes the challenge.
But it’s with the bat that Phehlukwayo is most surprising. Only twice in the six ODIs in which he has reached 20 chasing down a target have South Africa not reeled in that target. He has thus taken them home in four of those games, and he has done so against the quality attacks of Australia, New Zealand, India and Pakistan.
Phehlukwayo wins games better than not only many of his compatriots but better than many other so-called finishers anywhere. He isn’t the most emphatic cricketer in the game, but no-one is more composed.
Many might be surprised should he play a prominent role with both bat and ball in a successful 2019 World Cup campaign, but few of the raised eyebrows would belong to South Africans.