Cricket World Cup 2011

SA will be wary of long tail

2011-02-23 12:55
Imran Tahir (File)

Rob Houwing, Sport24 chief writer

Cape Town – The fact that they will be opening their World Cup campaign on Delhi’s temperamental Feroz Shah Kotla pitch could well sway South Africa toward a batting-heavy nature to their line-up against West Indies on Thursday.


So, for all the excited talk about the possibility of the Proteas finally putting some meaningful faith in Imran Tahir, a conservative game-plan may be the order of the day – and that could well lead to the leg-spinner sitting out the action yet again.

It is hard to envisage Graeme Smith’s team going into the Windies date minus any one of their extremely trustworthy frontline seamers – Dale Steyn, Lonwabo Tsotsobe and Morne Morkel – and that will leave room in the specialist spin department for only two of Johan Botha, Robin Peterson and Tahir.

And Botha and Peterson’s superior ability with the blade could well be decisive for a strip which will largely be an unknown factor given its recent “repair job” and the fact that it has been strictly cotton-woolled in the lead-up to the World Cup.

The “Kotla” last featured a one-day international in December 2009, when a game between India and Sri Lanka was abandoned after 23.3 overs with the Lankans on 83 for five and “extremely variable bounce” cited as the reason for the extreme step.

The surface has had some strong remedial attention from the ICC since then -- although just how it will play on Thursday is anybody’s guess.

And that will leave the Proteas reluctant to announce a line-up against West Indies which, for instance, features Botha at No 7 and then a too-fluffy tail comprising Messrs Steyn, Morkel, Tahir and Tsotsobe in that probable order.

They would be in a pretty deep pickle under those circumstances if they had a top-order wobble and quickly found themselves three or four wickets down and not enough runs on the board.

It suggests that Peterson’s greater all-round competence than Tahir will see the Warriors stalwart earn the nod, stiffening the bottom-end batting to a fairly comfortable degree.

No World Cup warm-ups were staged at the venue, and the Proteas have never played either a Test or ODI there, so trying to establish a dominant pitch characteristic is extremely difficult.

Fortunately for South Africa, the Windies’ last ODI there was as far back as 1989, more than two years before their opponents on Thursday even re-emerged from isolation ...


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