Rob Houwing

Proactive Proteas back in it

2014-11-17 07:28
port24 chief writer Rob Houwing (File)

Cape Town – Some of their pre-World Cup experimentation is fraught with peril, but the Proteas are trying very valiantly and creatively to close certain loopholes in their team-structure armoury.

On Sunday they were at it again ... and the policy paid dividends in several respects as South Africa struck back from Friday’s opening reverse at the WACA to level the five-match one-day international series 1-1 at the same venue.

It was an exciting, unusually low-scoring clash on a genuinely pacy Perth track with each team boasting a frisky speed merchant who claimed his career-best figures in the format: Morne Morkel five for 21 for the visitors and then young Josh Hazlewood five for 31 for the Aussies.

Not without some hiccups along the way, the Proteas chased down their modest requirement of 155 with three wickets in hand and, rather more pleasingly, more than 22 overs to spare.

A captain’s knock of 48 from AB de Villiers, half an hour of commanding strokeplay from Rilee Rossouw and another innings of improved conviction and application by David Miller – still at the crease when Dale Steyn launched one of his favourite straight drives to nail the victory – saw South Africa across the line.

You have to doff your hat to coach Russell Domingo and the rest of the leadership group for the way they shuffled the cards after the first game, taking due note of where things had gone wrong on that day and doubtless also recognising the structural shortcomings that keep coming back to bite them.

So for this quick turnaround follow-up encounter, they took the considerable risk of ditching all-rounder Ryan McLaren, who has been struggling in both departments, for specialist batsman Rossouw.

It was a move necessitated by ongoing frailty in the middle and lower regions of the batting order, but the known down side was that it would significantly lessen the bowling options at De Villiers’s disposal.

Suddenly fringe player Farhaan Behardien was thrust into likely responsibility – had the Aussie innings gone the full 50-overs duration – for 10 of his own with his skiddy medium-pacers. As it turned out he was only required to send down eight, and he was far from out of his league as he went for exactly five an over and got the big bonus of trapping the potentially dangerous Shane Watson plumb in front.

Behardien has never bowled a “maximum” stint in what is now 13 ODIs, nor has he even sent down a single delivery in 16 Twenty20 internationals, so he is very part-time – that applies to franchise cricket as well.

But with his slower pace, something that could always come in especially handy on sluggish, gripping surfaces, he does offer a different dimension to the frontline Proteas strike trio of Messrs Steyn, Morkel and Philander.

The last-named player, on the evidence of two strong personal bowling outings on the trot at the WACA, is looking more and more like a staple part of the Proteas’ ODI furniture now for Aussie and New Zealand-type conditions soon to be revisited at the major global tournament.  

Remember that at present JP Duminy is injured, so when he is back – touch wood, in good time for CWC 2015 – the possibility that Behardien, if broadly justifying his place, could split 10 overs with the diminutive off-spinner becomes reasonably feasible and should ensure that SA bat deeper into the tail zone.

For the moment, however, it is a rather big “if” because the Titans man must first confirm his worth at his main trade at the crease, where he got a lame-dismissal golden duck on Sunday.

Provided Behardien keeps his place, the remaining ODIs in this series – resuming in Canberra on Wednesday – could be vital in determining whether he is a worthy World Cup candidate.

South Africa cannot be blamed for trying to squeeze extra bowling resources from wherever they believe they can.

Giving Behardien a solid slab of overs in Perth was a bit like De Villiers giving himself six overs of dibbly-dob stuff – and also not getting significantly clobbered -- against New Zealand at Mount Maunganui recently.

‘Tis the season to try things. It should not be discouraged.

*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing

Read more on:    proteas  |  cricket

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2016-10-20 07:39

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