Parnell must stay in SA plans

2011-12-20 12:59
Wayne Parnell (Gallo)
Comment: Rob Houwing, Sport24 chief writer
Cape Town – While both teams still face several assignments beforehand, many devotees of Test cricket are already licking their lips about South Africa’s 2012 tour of England.

Modern series between the two are almost unfailingly engrossing and competitive and, with England currently ranked No 1 in the format and facing up to the last side to knock them over on their own terrain in 2008, the stakes may be even higher than normal in roughly the middle of next year.

The curtailment of the series to three Tests is infuriating many good judges, but it will probably only add to the intensity levels as one lopsided session either way could tilt the balance – it often does between these two foes.

Particularly keenly awaited, no doubt, will be a rip-roaring contest -- assuming all top candidates are fit -- between the respective pace attacks.

A quick glance at the ICC Test bowling rankings confirms these teams’ dominance of the global pack (although Australia are just beginning to stir again for frisky young head-hunters), with both boasting two strike bowlers among the top five.

The Proteas’ Dale Steyn still stands imperiously at the helm, with Morne Morkel at No 5, whilst for England James Anderson and Stuart Broad occupy slots two and four ... the extra man among the elite quintet is another Englishman, albeit an off-spinner in the shape of Graeme Swann.

England have another seamer just sneaking into the current top 10, in the shape of the bustling Tim Bresnan who, like Broad, is also a healthy lower-order factor with the blade.

But the cricket world has also become acquainted very recently with a certain Vernon Philander, the South African whose first three Test matches have netted him a near-fairytale harvest of 24 wickets and early comparisons (too early, perhaps!) with Glenn McGrath for the awkward corridor he lands the ball in with healthy frequency.

England certainly ought to suit his strengths, and it is beginning to look as if the Proteas will be predominantly characterised by the “skiddy” menace of Steyn and Philander, pitted against a strikingly tall battery of Englishmen (don’t forget to add the especially lofty Chris Tremlett to the hosts’ potential mix) capable of both banging the ball in for intimidatory purposes while well familiar with the local requirement of kissing the deck on a fullish length.

South Africa, of course, will hopefully be able to answer this stratospheric bombardment through their own beanpole Morkel who, if you take away his slightly unfortunate performance in the first Test against Sri Lanka a few days ago, is generally a much improved customer from the one who often wasted too many deliveries in the otherwise successful 2008 tour of England.

The common denominator among the two pace arsenals: they’re all right-armers. So wouldn’t it be handy if, by the middle of next year, the Proteas are able to at least contemplate fielding a left-arm fast bowler for a possible edge in variety and angle of attack?

And that’s why I, for one, keep watching the fortunes of Wayne Parnell, currently for his Warriors franchise, with special interest and always a strong element of hope.

People forget that even if he has had his technical, injury-related and occasionally behavioural ups and downs, Parnell is still only 22 and a rookie who sports just three Test caps thus far.

Significantly, it might be argued, the first of those came in the innings thrashing of the very England on their last visit to our shores in 2009/10, when the Proteas at least levelled up the series 1-1 in the fourth and last Test at the Wanderers after suffering the frustrating experience of having the tourists nine down in their second innings twice but having to settle for draws each time.

Parnell contributed to the Bullring slaughter with the key wickets of captain Andrew Strauss and Kevin Pietersen in England’s second knock.

Among other things, certain problems with his action have intervened since, but he is happily back in the midst of a protracted spell of first-class and limited-overs activity with the Warriors and faring decently, if not spectacularly, it seems.

In the most recent SuperSport Series match against the Dolphins at Port Elizabeth, he had encouraging first-innings figures of 11.3-6-17-3, and reminded of his all-round ability by making 44 and 43 from the No 6 position.

That aspect was particularly heartening; keep in mind, too, that only a month ago he registered a century as an opening batsman against the Lions in the 1-Day Cup at Potchefstroom.

I still believe that the South African tail is a tad too vulnerable against top-notch opponents, so if Parnell can just start grabbing a “notice me” five-for or two in the SuperSport Series, his competence with the bat could greatly assist a possible return to Test plans, giving the Proteas back someone in the bottom three or four with Klusener, Pollock or Boje-type credentials at the crease.

The national selectors recently returned Lonwabo Tsotsobe to the Test squad, and although he has a praiseworthy knack of proving critics wrong, a good part of me fancies the wise men may be backing the wrong horse as far as left-arm seam options for the five-day format are concerned.

Swifter with the ball, stealthier in the field and infinitely better with bat in hand, I’d love to see the Parnell cricketing package closer to prospering once more for the national cause.

And thus also being in a better position to steel himself for that enticing England tour ...

Read more on:    proteas  |  wayne parnell

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