There is probably no more powerful batting line-up in this competition than Delhi’s — even Australian star David Warner battles to get a game — with Pietersen a key figure in a top order that also boasts Virender Sehwag, Mahela Jayawardena and Ross Taylor.
Pietersen has had more than a few problems against left-arm spinners in the past and his personality is such that he will look to attack Phangiso from the outset. But the Lions’ spin bowling star is always up for the fight and Phangiso will relish the battle with Pietersen.
“Aaron’s from Soshanguve and they breed them tough there. The key is that he does not get overawed quickly. He’s a good kid, he has a good heart and he’s a fighter,” Lions coach Geoffrey Toyana said.
From humble beginnings, Phangiso scrapped his way into the South Africa under 19 side in 2003, a stint with the Titans, and now he is one of the top dogs at the Lions.
Phangiso’s performances in the tournament — 8/71 in 16 overs at a fabulous economy rate of just 4.43 — and how he has sucker-punched stars such as Sachin Tendulkar and Shane Watson, suggest he would not be out of place on the international limited-overs stage.
National selector and South Africa A coach Vincent Barnes is certainly a fan.
“Aaron went to Zimbabwe with the South Africa A side for a triangular series with Sri Lanka and bowled exceptionally well against some full internationals. He was then unbelievable in Ireland. He was outstanding the whole winter for South Africa A, averaging about 3/30 every bowling spell,” Barnes told Business Day.
“Aaron’s a very clever bowler, he gets turn and he has good variations, but his mind-set is also brilliant, he knows when to use those balls.
“He’s not getting tail-enders out, he’s getting good batsmen out with good balls. He reminds me of Johan Botha, and Robin Peterson too, in terms of his grit and determination. He’s in your face, he works bloody hard and he hates the batsman scoring a run off him.”
Barnes would still like to see Phangiso play more four-day cricket, as he only has a part-time role for Gauteng in the longer formats.
“He’s an exceptional cricketer, a fantastic fielder and no slouch with the bat either. I know he’s hungry for international cricket, but I would like to see him start to concentrate on the four-day game as well.
“I hope the Highveld Lions will play him, but they have Eddie Leie and Imran Tahir too, so it will be a challenge.”
While the Lions’ left-arm spinner will be a key weapon against the Delhi batting, Dirk Nannes, Sohail Tanvir and Chris Morris will have to play their part with the ball, while pressure will be on batsmen Alviro Petersen, Gulam Bodi, Quinton de Kock and Neil McKenzie to handle the Daredevils’ pace quartet of Morne Morkel, Umesh Yadav, Andre Russell and Irfan Pathan.
In the other semifinal, the Titans take on the Sydney Sixers at Centurion on Friday.