Kuhn’s one final fling, an adventure starts for Andile
ONE is closer to the end of his career, the other has just taken the first steps in what could potentially be a very exciting stay at the highest level. Their energy levels are similar, though, as they look ahead to the three T20 Internationals against Sri Lanka.
Nearly 12 years separate Heino Kuhn and Andile Phehlukwayo in age – Kuhn at 32 started his professional cricket career almost a decade before Phehlukwayo did his. However, both were bouncing around at training yesterday as a new-look South Africa side continued preparations before the opening T20 International at SuperSport Park tomorrow.
For both it’s a return of sorts, although there is a significant difference in the gap between when they last represented the Proteas. Phehlukwayo’s last turn at international cricket remains fresh in the memory. The effervescent batting to help David Miller win the third ODI against Australia in Durban is one of the highlights of the season while the variety he showed with the ball befuddled the World Cup holders to such an extent that Phehlukwayo ended the series as the leading wicket-taker with eight victims.
He didn’t get a chance to build on that remarkable introduction to international cricket following a horrific incident in the T20 Challenge competition, where he was struck in the groin by a ball and required surgery. He only recently returned for his franchise, the Dolphins, in the four-day Sunfoil Series, but said yesterday there were no after-effects from the surgery.
“The injury hasn’t affected me much, mentally or physically,” said Phehlukwayo. The break did provide an opportunity for him to reflect on his first taste of the international scene and he’s keen to use the lessons learned against Steve Smith’s side when he plays against the Sri Lankans in what will be his first T20 match for the Proteas.
“That break was also positive… I am aware of what I need to do, how to train, what questions to ask and what my mental preparation should be.”
It requires a slightly longer memory to recall Kuhn’s last appearance for South Africa. That came in the summer of 2011 also against Australia, but in a T20 match, which South Africa won at the Wanderers thanks to an outrageous eighth-wicket partnership between Wayne Parnell and Rusty Theron.
Kuhn has played five T20 Internationals but his highest score of five not out suggests he didn’t contributed significantly. In all those matches he batted down the order – between No 6 and 8 and kept wicket – but he is hoping to bat somewhere higher up this time around. “Russell (Domingo) has asked what I prefer,” Kuhn said yesterday. “I’ve always been an opening batter but in the last season, I’ve batted four, which I’ve enjoyed. I’ve enjoyed playing those middle overs, running hard, especially with guys like Fudgie (Behardien), who’s a great runner between wickets. Four has been good to me, but I’m happy to slot in wherever they want me.”
Kuhn’s call-up is a reward for some outstanding form across the domestic formats in recent seasons. In the last two seasons he’s been integral in the Titans’ championship-winning campaigns in the local T20 competitions and last season he was the leading run-scorer in the Sunfoil Series. With an aggregate of 1 126 he was the only batsmen to score more than 1 000 runs in the competition last summer.