Proteas changes against Zim?

2010-09-20 11:35
Graeme Smith (Gallo)
Rob Houwing, Sport24 chief writer

Cape Town – The Champions League Twenty20 is giving the national selectors some dilemmas, generally of a pleasant kind, as they weigh up their options for the first assignment of the summer against Zimbabwe.

GALLERY - Warriors and Lions

The southern African neighbours visit in early October for two T20 internationals and three ODIs against the Proteas.

Cricket in that country is stabilising nicely despite the various tumult there, and the Zimbabweans ought to provide fairly decent opposition.

That said, South Africa should still get past them with some ease and the matches will provide a good opportunity both for eradication of cobwebs – especially by national players not involved in Champions League action -- and some experimentation if that is what the brains trust fancies.

The T20 internationals are scheduled for October 8 in Bloemfontein and October 10 in Kimberley.

South Africa’s T20 arsenal is arguably not quite as settled as either the Test or ODI departments, and is reflected in their poor showing at the last ICC World Twenty20 in the Caribbean.

That was followed up by two T20s against the West Indies where the Proteas won 2-0 at slow and soulless North Sound in Antigua, although the respective margins were a less-than-convincing 13 runs and one run.

There could be some changes in the offing from the team which took to the field in the second match. For the record, it was: Graeme Smith (capt), Loots Bosman, Jacques Kallis, AB de Villiers, JP Duminy, Alviro Petersen, Johan Botha, Ryan McLaren, Roelof van der Merwe, Dale Steyn, Charl Langeveldt.

The biggest development in the interim, of course, has been Smith’s decision to step down as T20 captain -- although he wants to continue playing in the format – and his replacement with Botha at the helm.

The latter has been in most encouraging bowling form for the impressive Warriors in the Champions League thus far, his off-spin being employed for three full spells on the trot and boasting an economy rate well inside five to the over.

It will be highly interesting to see whether Smith is kept in the national T20 plans: will the selectors be planning any shock clearout of old-guard players like him or does his record at the crease and vast general experience mean he is viewed as a valuable shoulder to lean on for Botha? We will soon know.

Smith’s scores in T20 internationals in 2010, mostly encompassing the World Twenty20, have been (from most recent): 15, 37, 13, 19, 14, 27 and 36.

That is only moderate in the format and could help open the way for the introduction of Warriors captain Davy Jacobs at the top of the order.

He has been among the standout South Africans in a bright start to the Champions League for the two local sides in it, although neither the Warriors (despite their unbeaten status) or Lions are assured of semi-final spots yet.

Jacobs only a few days ago spoke fierily and with unusual self-belief of his ambition to play for South Africa, and then backed it up at the weekend with another muscular performance at the top of the order, smashing 74 off 47 balls against Central Districts.

He featured in an opening stand of 147 in 15.4 overs with Ashwell Prince, who seems himself to be on a Jacques Kallis-like mission to prove he can be suited to the T20 landscape.

Of course Jacobs could enter the Proteas picture at the expense of veteran Bosman rather than Smith – the 33-year-old predictably battled on the slow Caribbean pitches earlier this year and tends to be a whirlwind-scoring factor only when the ball is “coming on” nicely.

Duminy has not yet shown great evidence, for Mumbai Indians, that his violent slump last season is a thing of the past, although Petersen’s Lions form has been much better in the tournament: he already boasts two half-centuries from three knocks and is striking at 154.32.

But these have been at the top of the order … is he suited to operating in the middle for the Proteas, as happened without notable success in the West Indies?

Van der Merwe, the left-arm spinner, is also not guaranteed retention of his SA spot against Zimbabwe, especially if Botha is to be played as the only specialist spinner – unlikely, perhaps, in Bloemfontein and Kimberley where bowlers who “take the pace off the ball” tend to come in more handy than outright pacemen.


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