Cape Town – Proteas coach Russell Domingo believes the Test
side may have to dispense with their “seven batsmen” formula in order to strike
the appropriate team balance on the tour of Sri Lanka next month.
South Africa, currently a fraction behind top-placed
Australia on the ICC rankings, play two Tests against the ‘Lankans, the first
starting at Galle on July 16.
They will keep their options open as they assess conditions
in a country where they have not won a series in the format since 1993, and
also work out how best to remodel the side since the respective retirements
from Test cricket of long-time key figures Jacques Kallis and Graeme Smith.
In an interview with Sport24, Domingo said the strategy in
recent times of playing seven batsmen had been “all brought about by having
Kallis ... fielding someone in your top six who can bowl gives you the option
of that seventh batter and we don’t have that luxury any more”.
At the same time, he also indicated that he favoured the
idea of the Proteas retaining the security of four seamers.
“With the nature of our (likely main) spin bowler ... Imran
Tahir is likely to leak a few runs, as he’s an attacking option, so a fourth
seamer helps you greatly to hold up an end, which Kallis could do for a lengthy
period in the national side.
“So it’s difficult to now play seven batsmen under those
circumstances; you might have to place Vernon Philander at seven, and then
maybe a bowling all-rounder like a Wayne Parnell or perhaps a Kyle Abbott at
The Proteas could still contemplate an attack featuring just
three fast bowlers, plus Tahir and part-timer JP Duminy for the spin duties, if
they do decide not to disturb the seven-batsmen mix.
But reading between the lines, Domingo is not especially
keen on that scenario.
“Three seamers in Sri Lanka, in that heat, is a tough ask,
especially when your spinners ... well, I won’t say he’s not established, but
Imran has not yet played a lot of Test cricket and does have a history of going
for a few runs, although he’s a match-winner in terms of getting wickets.
“But in those conditions you do need to have someone who can
bowl a lot of overs.”
South Africa have introduced a new cap to increase their
spin options on the tour, in the form of young Cape Cobras off-spinner Dane
Piedt, and Domingo did not write off the possibility of him being fast-tracked
to a debut on the venture.
“It’s definitely not out of the window, the thought of
playing two frontline spinners -- maybe more of an option at Galle than in
Colombo, where historically it is not a massively spinning wicket.
“We’ll assess conditions carefully when we get there.”
It seemed significant that the selectors preferred Piedt to
the Warriors’ arguably “safer” Simon Harmer, who had seemed next in line after
several promising showings at SA ‘A’ level.
“We’ve got to start unearthing spinners who are able to get
wickets,” Domingo explained. “Dane’s big (plus) is that he is able to bowl a
doosra which is a massive advantage for an off-spinner in modern cricket. He’s
an exciting bowler for us.”
*Follow our chief
writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing