Proteas: ‘New Polly’ at last?

2015-08-05 15:09
David Wiese (Gallo Images)
Cape Town - Ah, the good old No 7 spot in the order ... South Africa have suffered one-day international angst and instability there for several years.

In a nutshell, they’ve laboured to fill it convincingly ever since that exemplary bowling all-rounder Shaun Pollock finally quit ODIs (after a mighty 303 caps) against West Indies at the Wanderers in February 2008.

“Polly” didn’t always bat there - it could depend on the balance of the team from one game to another - but he was a comforting choice in the slot when required to do so.

The Proteas certainly appear to have moved on from the 34-year-old Albie Morkel, who never quite caught fire regularly enough with either his power-hitting or seam bowling and hasn’t graced the ODI arena since 2012 - although he has wrestled some fairly serious injury demons since.

More recently, another thirtysomething, bowling-heavy all-rounder in Ryan McLaren was recalled for the Bangladesh mini-series - a slightly undignified 2-1 reverse for the tourists - but didn’t get a game and is back in the cold, whilst patience has also run out for the moment with the younger Wayne Parnell, 26, currently representing SA ‘A’ in an Indian tournament.

The men left to try to clear the lingering No 7 fog, then, are incumbent Farhaan Behardien - who leans more toward batting as strongest suit but averages a humdrum 25.88 with the blade and remains very much an “occasional” medium-pacer - and a fresh face in his wiry Titans colleague David Wiese.

The 30-year-old’s inclusion in the ODI squad announced by the selection panel on Tuesday for the three-game home New Zealand series later this month seems significant: it is unlikely both players will make the cut in the XI, and that Wiese’s encouraging showings in Twenty20 internationals are finally going to be acknowledged through a crack in the slightly longer limited-overs format.

So unless there is going to be a show of ongoing confidence - though that may well not be the most appropriate word - in much-maligned “Fudge”, expect Wiese to see at least some action from No 7 against the Black Caps.

Hostilities begin at a familiar base for him, SuperSport Park in Centurion, on August 19, after the T20 portion where he seems a more clear-cut pick.

Wiese has only batted five times, including two not outs, in T20 internationals but he is the sort of bludgeoner the Proteas seek in the lower middle order to ease the pressure on ever-improving David Miller to provide the broken roof tiles all the time.

Nor is it as though Wiese is simply a crude slogger: he has qualities in durability and decent defence as well, as evidenced by as many as nine first-class centuries, and one of the double variety (his career-best 208).

What perhaps gives him an edge over Behardien, though, is the greater likelihood that he could be safely entrusted with “fifth bowler” duty against New Zealand.

That is probably going to be important because of the unavailability on paternity leave of batsman JP Duminy, who so often provides healthy salvoes of very credible off-spin and thus balances the side pretty crucially.

In his absence the Proteas will be forced, by my calculation, to field six front-line batsmen (including recalled wicketkeeper Morne van Wyk) and then have positions seven to 11 all filled by players with the need and capability to offer full 10-over quotas.

Based on his decent T20 international stats (17 scalps from 10 games at 12.76 and economy of below seven runs to the over), Wiese seems up for that task; any extra bowling may have to come from that surprise package slow-medium factor De Villiers if an intended main member of the attack takes unacceptable tap.

Given how far out we are from the next CWC, in England in distant 2019, this is as ideal a time as any to experiment with Wiese in the 50-overs environment and attempt to end that infuriating Achilles Heel at No 7.

There shouldn’t be much wrong with his bowling confidence, at the very least, given that it is still well less than a month ago that he grabbed a five-for for his Caribbean Premier League franchise, the Guyana Amazon Warriors, against eventual finalists Barbados Tridents.

He is never going to be another SM Pollock ... few will.

But Wiese warrants a chance to become the modern, best possible component at No 7 for South Africa.

*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing

Read more on:    proteas  |  david wiese  |  cricket

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