Cape Town – Some of their pre-World Cup experimentation is
fraught with peril, but the Proteas are trying very valiantly and creatively to
close certain loopholes in their team-structure armoury.
On Sunday they were at it again ... and the policy paid
dividends in several respects as South Africa struck back from Friday’s opening
reverse at the WACA to level the five-match one-day international series 1-1 at
the same venue.
It was an exciting, unusually low-scoring clash on a genuinely
pacy Perth track with each team boasting a frisky speed merchant who claimed
his career-best figures in the format: Morne Morkel five for 21 for the
visitors and then young Josh Hazlewood five for 31 for the Aussies.
Not without some hiccups along the way, the Proteas chased
down their modest requirement of 155 with three wickets in hand and, rather
more pleasingly, more than 22 overs to spare.
A captain’s knock of 48 from AB de Villiers, half an hour of
commanding strokeplay from Rilee Rossouw and another innings of improved
conviction and application by David Miller – still at the crease when Dale
Steyn launched one of his favourite straight drives to nail the victory – saw
South Africa across the line.
You have to doff your hat to coach Russell Domingo and the
rest of the leadership group for the way they shuffled the cards after the
first game, taking due note of where things had gone wrong on that day and
doubtless also recognising the structural shortcomings that keep coming back to
So for this quick turnaround follow-up encounter, they took
the considerable risk of ditching all-rounder Ryan McLaren, who has been
struggling in both departments, for specialist batsman Rossouw.
It was a move necessitated by ongoing frailty in the middle
and lower regions of the batting order, but the known down side was that it
would significantly lessen the bowling options at De Villiers’s disposal.
Suddenly fringe player Farhaan Behardien was thrust into
likely responsibility – had the Aussie innings gone the full 50-overs duration
– for 10 of his own with his skiddy medium-pacers.
As it turned out he was only required to send down eight,
and he was far from out of his league as he went for exactly five an over and
got the big bonus of trapping the potentially dangerous Shane Watson plumb in
Behardien has never bowled a “maximum” stint in what is now
13 ODIs, nor has he even sent down a single delivery in 16 Twenty20
internationals, so he is very part-time – that applies to franchise cricket as
But with his slower pace, something that could always come
in especially handy on sluggish, gripping surfaces, he does offer a different
dimension to the frontline Proteas strike trio of Messrs Steyn, Morkel and
The last-named player, on the evidence of two strong
personal bowling outings on the trot at the WACA, is looking more and more like
a staple part of the Proteas’ ODI furniture now for Aussie and New Zealand-type
conditions soon to be revisited at the major global tournament.
Remember that at present JP Duminy is injured, so when he is
back – touch wood, in good time for CWC 2015 – the possibility that Behardien,
if broadly justifying his place, could split 10 overs with the diminutive
off-spinner becomes reasonably feasible and should ensure that SA bat deeper
into the tail zone.
For the moment, however, it is a rather big “if” because the
Titans man must first confirm his worth at his main trade at the crease, where
he got a lame-dismissal golden duck on Sunday.
Provided Behardien keeps his place, the remaining ODIs in
this series – resuming in Canberra on Wednesday – could be vital in determining
whether he is a worthy World Cup candidate.
South Africa cannot be blamed for trying to squeeze extra
bowling resources from wherever they believe they can.
Giving Behardien a solid slab of overs in Perth was a bit
like De Villiers giving himself six overs of dibbly-dob stuff – and also not
getting significantly clobbered -- against New Zealand at Mount Maunganui
‘Tis the season to try things. It should not be discouraged.
*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing