Cricket World Cup 2015

Have JP’s figures scared SA?

2015-03-09 23:34
JP Duminy (AFP)

Cape Town – He has personally acknowledged that he was among the errant characters with the bat in South Africa’s reverse to Pakistan ... but it is JP Duminy’s short-lived bowling effort in Auckland that may have spooked the Proteas more at the World Cup.

Whilst opinion remains massively divided about the optimal shape of the South African XI, the team’s brains trust would have pleased some observers – at least immediately ahead of that game – as they finally tried the “seven frontline batsmen” formula for the first time at the tournament.

Of course it automatically meant that, ideally, Duminy would contribute as near as possible to a full 10-over bowling stint to make up for the resultant trimming of a bowler.

The trouble was that the Pakistanis, quite possibly in a concerted, pre-planned initiative, got stuck into his off-breaks with some relish – three overs leaking a damaging 34 runs -- and the Proteas found themselves instead having to entrust captain AB de Villiers with the bigger share of the fifth bowler’s duty with his essentially part-time, tranquil medium-pacers.

Between them, the pair conceded 77 runs in nine overs which undid much of the yeoman work done by their more specialist bowling quartet in what was a reasonably low-scoring affair.

De Villiers wasn’t all bad: after travelling for 20 runs in his first two overs, he came back fairly commendably to end with an analysis of 6-0-43-1 and some immeasurably more competent bowlers than he is have taken greater stick during the largely batting-friendly event so far.

Think, for instance, of Steven Finn’s gruesome concession of 49 runs from only two overs for England against a Brendon McCullum-fired New Zealand, and even that feared chin musician Mitchell Johnson copping a 68-run walloping in six overs from the very same Black Caps at Eden Park only a week before the Proteas ran out there.

Yet the stark fact remains that Duminy -- undoubtedly intended beforehand as the weightier bowling contributor than De Villiers on the day -- had a difficult, necessarily curtailed stint just when he was most firmly under focus in that department.

The question for coach Russell Domingo and others to ponder is whether the diminutive “offie” merely had the kind of bilious day any bowler on the planet can experience from time to time.

Simultaneously, they will have to decide whether there’s been enough evidence that someone like De Villiers can be a suitable, more consistent fill-in option against quality opposition if Duminy is targeted and part of his tab has to be picked up, as it were.

Interestingly, now after six bowling stints in his 184 one-day internationals – and most of them pretty recently – De Villiers’ average (31.00) is actually slightly better than that of squad-mate Farhaan Behardien (33.25) who is another possible candidate to share a 10-over quota with Duminy when necessary.

In fairness, Behardien boasts a better economy rate: 5.34 as opposed to De Villiers’s 6.45, although there increasingly seems little to separate them as dibbly-dobbly seamers.

Still, it will be making Domingo and his lieutenants understandably nervous that Duminy, for all his occasional usefulness and variety on the bowling front, has still only ever completed a full 10 overs four times in 88 bowling stints at ODI level.

His World Cup 2015 performance thus far is iffy, too: a combined total of 18 overs across three matches (Zimbabwe, India, Pakistan) at a cost of 118 runs, for one wicket at an economy rate of six and a half.

Yet muddling the huge team-composition quandary further is that, at the end of the day, South Africa surrendered their latest match more on the grounds of over-zealous and rash batting by various, key individuals than through collective bowling woe.

They will know they could -- and should -- have hunted down the required 232.

Beefing up the bowling once more helps them in one department, but what then of the weakening effect on a batting line-up just beginning to show signs of a tentative psyche and unhealthy dependency on De Villiers for game-tilting carnage?  

Admittedly without abundant confidence, a personal view – and I accept it won’t be universally shared -- is that the Proteas should show some backbone rather than jerk a knee: give this formula a further chance to work rather than scuttle back to past models also laden with imperfections.

There are all sorts of other factors to take into account, of course, like Quinton de Kock’s continuing CWC misery at the front of the order – at what point do you pull the plug? – and considerable uncertainty over the fitness of Vernon Philander for the business end of the World Cup.

Let’s face it, this is not an especially enviable time to be selector of a Proteas ODI team, as no combination under present circumstances will look emphatically watertight.

The only comfort for the time being, as the closing Pool B challenge of minnow United Arab Emirates looms in Wellington on Thursday, is that South Africa should win that one even if they were to pick eight blessed bowlers for it ...

*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing

Read more on:    proteas  |  cwc 2015  |  jp duminy  |  cricket

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