SA bowling woes mount
Rob Houwing - Sport24 chief writer
Johannesburg – Already given shorter shrift than they would have liked by Zimbabwe’s Tatenda Taibu and company, South Africa may take a reasonably depleted attack into their first summer encounter with touring England here on Friday.
In their 15-man squad, about half of the possible bowling arsenal for the first of two Standard Bank Pro20 internationals at the Wanderers – the other is at SuperSport Park on Sunday – are wrestling untimely injuries.
Already ruled out is Dale Steyn’s strike partner Wayne Parnell: coach Mickey Arthur admitted as much at a media briefing on Monday which followed the Mutual & Federal SA Cricket Annual 2009 launch at the Wanderers Club.
“Wayne is a fair bit away … probably a week at least so he won’t take part (in the Twenty20 matches) this weekend,” Arthur said.
The 20-year-old, who boasts 11 wickets at 17.45 in his eight T20 internationals thus far, has an ankle problem which means he will miss out against opponents whom he bagged 3/14 against the last time he encountered them in this format.
That was when the Proteas thumped the host nation by seven wickets at Trent Bridge during the ICC World Twenty20 event earlier in the year.
The national camp are also awaiting medical reports on another left-arm seamer in their squad, Yusuf Abdulla, who bowled just four deliveries in the Dolphins’ MTN40 victory over the Eagles in Durban on Sunday before leaving the field.
Of further concern was confirmation that veteran all-rounder Jacques Kallis, gradually recovering from a side injury, is not quite ready to bowl yet: Arthur said he would play as a batsman only in the second ODI against Zimbabwe in Centurion on Tuesday.
That may simply be precautionary, because South Africa could do with some of his famous “heavy balls” as they seek to earn an early psychological edge against England.
Exciting batsman JP Duminy, similarly, is back in the mix against the Zimbabweans after missing the first encounter at Benoni on Sunday - the Proteas won comfortably enough but became woefully sloppy and ineffectual from a bowling point of view in the closing stages - and presumably will be available to send down a few overs of his increasingly useful off-spin.
But he has a niggly shin splints condition which Arthur says “will have to be monitored through the season”.
Drawbacks in the bowling department don’t end there - seasoned “death” customer Charl Langeveldt is also not yet firing on all cylinders after his mini-catalogue of right shoulder problems.
The 34-year-old bowled within himself during the messy first triumph over the tenacious Zimbabweans, although he only conceded four runs to the over in his eight-over stint.
“Langers is not there yet,” Arthur told Sport24. “He’s working towards 100 percent fitness. We don’t want to push him too soon, but he also needs game-time.
“At Benoni he probably operated at 80 percent. We want him to be operating at full throttle come November 20 (the first of five fuller-length ODIs against England). I’m pretty sure we’ll have him doing that.”
So as things stand the Proteas have only five genuinely fit bowlers in their ranks for Friday: Dale Steyn, who at least worked up a good head of steam at Benoni, Ryan McLaren, Albie Morkel and spinners Johan Botha and Roelof van der Merwe.
Asked if he felt there was a lack of general depth in South African bowling resources at present, Arthur said: “I think if you look at domestic competitions of late, that’s partly right.
“The guys who have performed are primarily the ones we know about - it was great to see Morne Morkel, for instance, getting five wickets the other night.
“(But) there hasn’t been another bowler who’s really put his hand up. I think you’ll see the skill levels of various bowlers get better and better as they are exposed more and more to the (MTN40) format.
“I’m hoping that happens … I don’t think we are necessarily thin in bowling talent but it’s the one area where we are looking for real competition for places. The batting, of course, seems healthy countrywide.”
The coach conceded that England, coming off one-sided wins against both the Eagles and Warriors, “seem to have started on a good note” on tour.
“It is worth noting that our franchise attacks (against them) haven’t been at their strongest: it was more of a second-choice Warriors attack on a very good wicket at Kimberley, which does play a role.
“But England have gone about their business fairly professionally. They’ve been workmanlike.”