Marchant stakes a CWC claim

2014-08-21 23:30
Marchant de Lange (AFP)

Cape Town – As with so many genuinely “shock” bowlers his fitness can be a tenuous affair, but Marchant de Lange has stuck up his hand nevertheless as a World Cup 2015 dark horse for South Africa.

The throat-hunter from Tzaneen, playing his second of just two one-day internationals on Thursday, more than two years apart, carried on where he left off on debut (where he had registered four for 46 against New Zealand in Auckland) by grabbing three for 31 as the Proteas ensured a comfortable 3-0 clean sweep over Zimbabwe in Bulawayo.

That gives him a bowling average of 11 and strike rate of 14.4 from the brace of productive ODIs and even if the limitations of the southern African neighbours have to be taken into account, he reminded all over again that there a few substitutes for sheer, no-frills pace and ability to extract bothersome bounce even from a reasonably benign track.

It was a performance clearly appreciated by South Africa’s stand-in captain Faf du Plessis, who said after the seven-wicket victory: “It’s good to see someone like Marchant pump up the gas.”

That, frankly, was exactly what he did even if the absence of a speed gun at the venue was a minor annoyance to armchair viewers.

The former javelin-thrower’s international career has been a rather stop-start one for injury-related reasons but his late winter activity – touch wood – has been pleasingly uninterrupted if you add in his strike power on the SA ‘A’ tour of Australia recently.

South Africa’s selectors have revealed a revised squad for next week’s triangular in Harare also featuring the ODI No 1-ranked Aussies, and must have faced a pleasant predicament on the fast bowling front.

Established top-rank pacemen Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel return after being rested for the Zimbabwe-only ODI combat, and in their absence players like Kyle Abbott (excellent intensity, little luck in the wickets column) and Wayne Parnell also did their CWC 2015 credentials no harm at all; they remain in the immediate mix.

The same applied on Thursday to left-arm debutant Mthokozisi Shezi, who was impressively steady and parsimonious although it is difficult to escape a feeling that the Proteas have missed a trick for the time being by leaving De Lange out.

Still, there are plenty more assignments in the format before Andrew Hudson and company have to pick a squad for the World Cup in February, which should allow De Lange further chances even if he has been thwarted in an immediate sense.

An appetising thought about the 23-year-old, also remembered for his seven for 81 in his maiden bowling innings in Tests against Sri Lanka at Kingsmead in December 2011, is that much of the World Cup (also featuring some New Zealand hosting) will be contested on the firm and fast pitches of Australia, to which his specific skills seems ideally suited.

De Lange can have his off days for personal economy, but he consistently seems to flourish in the wickets column and that is always one of the best ways to put a lid on prolific scoring in the 50-overs format as the “wickets in hand” factor evaporates for batting sides.

Even though he has failed to make the cut for the looming triangular – the Proteas play their first game against Michael Clarke’s side on Wednesday – it might be well worth including De Lange for when they travel to Australia for a useful, intelligence-gathering bilateral ODI series in November.

If he had earned the nod for the three-pronged Harare tournament, he would have got the appetising chance to go into battle, alongside Steyn and Morkel, with an Aussie attack led by the Test-series scourge of the Proteas last summer, Mitchell Johnson.

As former Australia batsman Mike Hussey reminded in the Sydney Morning Herald this week: “It will be good to see (Johnson) back playing.

“He’s obviously exciting to watch and I know he loves playing South Africans so there’ll be a bit of spice there.”

A fit De Lange is not exactly low on thrill factor, either, as evidenced again in Bulawayo.

Hopefully he is back in the Proteas’ plans sooner rather than later ...

*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing

Read more on:    proteas  |  marchant de lange  |  cricket

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