South Africa will begin their Twenty20 international series against Pakistan in Durban today, with AB de Villiers set for a new role in the team -- opening the batting for the first time in the game's shortest version for his country.
Captain Faf du Plessis confirmed yesterday that the Proteas' one-day skipper will come in at the top of the order and he will also keep wicket. De Villiers has opened in Tests and one-day international cricket in the past, but never at T20 level.
"We have made a decision and for the first game AB will keep, and he'll also open the batting," Du Plessis said at Kingsmead. "We just feel that AB is one of the best batsmen in the world. He's one of those guys who on his day can score a century.
"There's not a lot of players like that in the world and we feel AB is definitely that, an X-factor player." The news ends some uncertainty about De Villiers' role, with the player admitting on Wednesday he was not sure about his position in the team.
"He might be feeling a little bit fresh coming in because the last time he played a Twenty20 series there was a completely different look to the team," Du Plessis said of De Villiers, whose last T20 match for the Proteas was at the World Twenty20 in Sri Lanka last year. "So he'll get used to it. The nice thing about AB is he's such an easy guy, he gets on well with everyone.
"Our plan is definitely looking ahead to the next World Cup. It's 12 games away and it might be a hidden gem (AB opening). AB is such a brilliant player and you want to get your best players in as early as possible. He's also really excited about it."
With Richard Levi not picked for the series, Du Plessis confirmed that Henry Davids, who made his debut against New Zealand last month, will open the batting alongside his Titans team-mate. Kyle Abbott is also set to play following his storming nine-wicket haul on his Test debut against the same opponents last week.
"I think we can be excited by what he (Abbott) brings to the team," Du Plessis said. He's obviously on a massive high with his confidence. So he's going to play a huge role in this upcoming month of cricket, both in the T20s and one-dayers."
As for Pakistan, Du Plessis conceded they would be a far different team to the one that South Africa whitewashed 3-0 in the five-day arena. "I see Pakistan as one of the top-two T20 sides in the world," he added.
"Their skill in the shortened form of the game is excellent. They have a lot of match winners. It is a much bigger challenge than we had against New Zealand, not to take anything away from New Zealand, but these guys are a high-quality T20 team and our skills will have to be excellent if we want to win the series."