SA: Behardien’s big break?
Sport24 chief writer Rob Houwing (File)
Cape Town - Titans batsman Farhaan Behardien
is likely to be the unintended beneficiary of Proteas captain AB de
Villiers’s suspension from the remaining two one-day internationals
against New Zealand.
South Africa face successive, do-or-die
fixtures in the relatively sleepy hollows of Kimberley and Potchefstroom
if they are to retain their 50-overs pride for the time being.
the ODI rankings, debatably, change daily when there are series on the
go - three around the globe, as we speak - the Proteas tumbled from
first to third after Saturday’s shock one-wicket reverse in the first of
three ODIs at Paarl.
More importantly in terms of immediate
priorities, perhaps, there is now an inadvertently welcome element of
pressure on the host nation just to come from behind and see off the
lowly-rated Black Caps in the respective day-nighters on Tuesday and
Friday (both 14:30).
Sunday’s ICC media release, indicating that De Villiers has been handed a two-game suspension
for a slow over-rate in the Boland, also makes South Africa’s task that
little bit tougher, although replacement leadership will not be a major
Faf du Plessis happily stepping in and Graeme Smith
and Hashim Amla
also in the current team mix for aid on that front.
face it, pressure wasn’t exactly a phenomenon that faced South Africa’s
various “crossover” players in the horribly one-sided Test series
between the countries, so a sudden sense of urgency has been introduced
and their senior troops, in particular, will be expected to restore
their lustre in a hurry.
It is seldom that the Proteas, batting
first on home soil (even if on the traditionally slightly quirky Paarl
pitch) can only amass a total of 208 all out, with 22 deliveries going
to waste at the back end.
That was always going to give the New
Zealanders a fighting chance, and they will be delighted to have got
across the line despite so nearly making a pig’s ear of the chase - at
105 for seven and later 140 for eight, it had looked as though “normal
service” was going to prevail with a thumping home win.
difficult to pinpoint any especially glaring failings by the South
African attack, in spiritedly attempting to defend an insufficient tally
at the crease.
Sometimes you simply have to doff your cap to
someone like James Franklin, the experienced, 99-cap all-rounder who
calmly and deftly shepherded the Kiwi tail to the target.
the South African bowlers returned respectable enough figures, despite
the defeat, although there will be lingering concern at Lonwabo Tsotsobe
’s unwanted knack of damaging his frequently commendable opening spell with erratic later ones when the ball is a bit softer.
the answer is simply to try to coax as many overs as possible out of
the lanky left-armer up front: at Paarl he bowled just five at the
outset for a fine initial return of two for 12, so maybe that could be
stretched to, say, seven if he is going well?
At a fairly advance
stage of the match, when it looked instead as though the Proteas were
going to prevail, some of the television commentators were speculating
that Morne Morkel for Dale Steyn
might be the only alteration to the mix for the De Beers Diamond Oval.
would be in line with the sensible, rotational habit of keeping the key
strike men suitably in the groove for bigger, Test-match obligations to
follow, while being cautious not to overburden them.
Maybe the defeat will persuade coach Gary Kirsten
and company to tinker with the side a bit more - and the De Villiers bolt from the blue now makes that an imperative.
The 29-year-old Behardien was the only remaining specialist batsman in the 14-strong squad, until hard-hitting David Miller
’s hasty addition on Sunday, so he appears a logical shoe-in for Kimberley.
A chance for Behardien would be both deserved, and educative for the Proteas’ longer-term planning.
has played nine Twenty20 internationals and not yet set the world
alight in that format, although he has only batted six times and three
of those knocks are not-outs.
Nevertheless, he boasts a handy strike rate of almost 92 in List A cricket and might provide some timely oomph.
brains trust will probably hope that lightning won’t strike twice on
Tuesday: there was the rare instance in the first match of gnarly
frontline batsmen Amla, Smith and De Villiers, who boast 383 ODI
appearances between them, being bundled out well before the score had
reached the 50-mark.
That is unusual, seriously back-foot stuff for the Proteas and pretty much set the tone for an uncomfortable day for them.
players like Colin Ingram and Quinton de Kock, meanwhile, blew hot and
cold as they showed flashes of promise before getting out when tidily
set, but knowing the Kirsten way might not be brutally shelved in any
De Kock had his shaky moments behind the stumps as
well. That said, there is clearly something about the baby-faced
international novice, in an all-round cricketing sense, and his errors
will only have given new mentor Mark Boucher
some useful ammunition to work with.
is no harm in some early hardship; many players who have flourished too
quickly for their countries have suddenly found that drought can follow
We were also served some reminders of how brilliant a fielder De Villiers remains when relieved of the glovework.
alliance with Faf du Plessis in the general covers region was lethal at
times, prompting a relative pioneer of hot-shot modern fielding, Peter Kirsten
, to enthuse in the SABC TV commentary box: “They look like cats on a hot tin roof.”
It harked back to the days of people like Jonty Rhodes and Herschelle Gibbs
stalking the in-field with aplomb for the Proteas in limited-overs cricket.
host nation know that the New Zealanders suddenly have a vital bit of
second wind on this tour; it should make for a pair of absorbing
contests in the great South African interior...*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing