More bowling for Duminy?
Rob Houwing, Sport24 chief writer
Cape Town – The climate may well be perfect for JP Duminy, recently bestowed with greater batting responsibility, to crank up his off-spin duty in one-day internationals as well.
There are several reasons for this, as South Africa go into the third MTN ODI against England 1-0 down and under pressure at his home ground of Newlands on Friday.
An obvious one is that the Proteas are missing -- in every sense of the word -- the services for the whole five-match series of Jacques Kallis, who brings precious balance to the side as a genuine all-rounder.
In his absence, Duminy is the only remaining blue-chip batsman in the team at present with the potential to contribute meaningfully with the ball, even if he does so rather more sporadically than the ever-steady seamer Kallis.
But with increasing question marks over Albie Morkel’s reliability as a bowler, coupled with the fact that neither of Roelof van der Merwe and Johan Botha, the front-line spinners, are setting the world alight in early summer, perhaps the time is right for Duminy’s off-breaks to come into their own more strongly.
Newlands can also be a fairly kind venue for slow bowlers, in all formats of the game, as evidenced by Paul Harris’s rousing Test success against Australia in 2008/09 and Van der Merwe’s crucial return of 10-0-37-3 in the Cape Town ODI triumph over them.
Perhaps the latter performance, incidentally, will sway things in favour of the left-armer keeping his specialist place ahead of off-spinner Botha for Friday, despite the “tap” he has taken in successive ODIs against England at Centurion this season.
Knowledgeable commentator Robin Jackman made the point on SuperSport’s Inside Edge programme on Tuesday that Van der Merwe had “strayed a little too leg-side” against the in-form English right-handers Paul Collingwood and Jonathan Trott in Sunday’s heavy defeat, and was certainly capable of much better.
But at least Duminy’s on-field presence may well prove a comfort for captain Graeme Smith if he is suddenly seeking additional options on Friday.
It is always difficult for a part-time bowler to settle into any sort of stride, and Duminy, whose deft changes of pace and flight are arguably under-rated, has seldom been given more protracted stints in his 52-ODI career, where he has bowled 102 overs and taken 14 wickets at 35.64 and economy rate of 4.88.
But there were signs last season that Smith was prepared to entrust him with a greater bowling burden: he bowled full 10-over spells against the Aussies in Sydney (10-0-52-1) and then at the Wanderers in a series-ending, dead-rubber affair (10-0-48-3).
And Duminy told Sport24 at a press conference on Wednesday that he was keen to evolve into a more regular “10-overs bowler”.
“I’d like to think I can do that,” he said. “It’s happened for me against the Aussies, but obviously since then we’ve tended to play with two specialised spinners most of the time.
“But in the case of us fielding one spinner, I guess I might be an option for 10 overs sometimes.
“It’s always been a goal of mine to become a recognised spinner. I believe I’ve improved quite a bit now.”
Duminy got through four overs in the SuperSport Park defeat, only travelling at around four runs to the over in a game that got rather “messy” from a Proteas full-time bowlers’ perspective.
It will be interesting to see whether Newlands sees him summoned for a slightly bigger quota …