Cricket World Cup 2015

Proteas’ QF: Selection is key

2015-03-12 14:22
Farhaan Behardien (Gallo Images)

Cape Town – It stubbornly remains the most complex and unenviable of tasks, but it seems increasingly clear that getting the selection mix correct on the day could be a key ticket to South Africa winning their World Cup quarter-final.

As it happened: SA beat UAE by 146 runs

The Proteas wrapped up their Pool B programme on Thursday with a comfortable enough thumping of minnows the United Arab Emirates in Wellington, even if they still carry the hallmarks of a slightly jittery outfit at times.

Frankly, after six group matches at this tournament, we are all still left with the feeling we nursed beforehand that South Africa have a puncher’s chance at CWC glory more because of the potential majesty of certain individuals than collective steeliness and balance to the XI itself.

The Proteas, with four wins and two losses, both to Subcontinent sides -- India and Pakistan – are still massively likely to be playing a third major power from that neck of the woods, Sri Lanka, in the first quarter-final at Sydney Cricket Ground on Wednesday, March 18.

Typically of their tournament so far, AB de Villiers’ team seemed to plug some holes even as others stayed porous or even widened during the patchily ruthless disposal of the UAE, who seemed more interested in playing cling-on cricket at times than trying with any conviction to really go after the runs required of them.

Much-maligned partial all-rounder Farhaan Behardien, for example, was one of the more assertive players in the match, smacking a powerful unbeaten 64 at a strike rate of 206 to take the SA total well out of reach of the UAE (even if they had ever dreamed of later eclipsing it before he took to the crease at No 7).

He did what most finishers are supposed to do, really: work the ball around a bit before building up to a crescendo of boundary strokes towards the death.

His knockers, on social media, were inevitably quick to protest along the lines of: “But this is only the UAE, for Pete’s sake.”

What is the poor guy supposed to do? Get himself out cheaply, so they can chortle instead: “See ... he even fails against the Emirates!”?

Considering that he also trundled four overs at a respectable cost of only 11 runs, Behardien has at the very worst stuck up his hand credibly for inclusion in the quarter-final, should the Proteas’ main strategists decide that he is the correct “bridging” character again in the lower middle order, with versatile strings to his bow.

Once more on this occasion, De Villiers perhaps very deliberately split his oft-problematic fifth bowler quota of overs among three staffers: himself, JP Duminy and Behardien.

Between them, their closing analysis read 10-2-38-3 and that looks pretty darned respectable on paper.

The vexing question to be weighed up over the next few days, of course, is: just how much less flattering might that mix-and-match trio’s figures look against a more top-tier batting line-up, and one as generally in-form as the Sri Lankan one?

A lot could depend on how astutely De Villiers, Russell Domingo and others read the pitch for the high-stakes knockout clash as truth be told, the SA side could be shaped in several ways while still looking quite glaringly vulnerable in various departments.

The situation has been compounded, rather than aided, by the failure yet again at this World Cup of wicketkeeper/batsman Quinton de Kock to get properly among the runs – he was dismissed for a tentative 26, albeit his highest score in six knocks, for a pool-ending average of a desperate 8.83.

De Kock is a rare talent who will rise again, but as former national coach Eric Simons said in the SuperSport studio during Thursday’s match, he is a “confidence player” and that can’t be gushing from all the youngster’s pores at present.

Can he be risked under such circumstances for a World Cup QF? You have to suspect not.

It would necessitate the amazing De Villiers, who incidentally took his tournament runs tally to 417 at 83.40 with his 99 against the UAE, assuming the glovework although we have seen before that that is hardly a train smash for the “can do” cricketer supreme.

It wasn’t especially edifying to see the likes of Dale Steyn and Vernon Philander occasionally being thumped back unceremoniously down the track by unheralded UAE stroke-players, but at least Morne Morkel and Imran Tahir continued their consistent bowling ways at this World Cup – Morkel produced several bodily-harm deliveries that did little to encourage the UAE batsmen to regularly get in line.

One extra, unsatisfactory aspect of the current team brew is that Kyle Abbott, who has looked keen and full of thrust when given tournament opportunities, can’t get a gig; hopefully that will come at the SCG if a decision is made to go the Full Monty five-bowler route.

De Villiers reportedly said post-match that formula is “not a given”, however. 

The South African word for the Proteas’ not wholly pleasant quarter-final selection pickle is “eish”, wouldn’t you agree?

*Admittedly from the risky position of almost a week ahead and some fitness issues also to considered, I am just beginning to see this as the likeliest Proteas combo now, warts and all, for the quarter-final (in best batting order): Hashim Amla, Rilee Rossouw, Faf du Plessis, AB de Villiers (capt, wkt), David Miller, JP Duminy, Farhaan Behardien, Vernon Philander, Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel, Imran Tahir.

*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing

Read more on:    proteas  |  cwc 2015  |  farhaan behardien  |  cricket

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