Rob Houwing, Sport24 chief writer
Tahir still on hold for SA?
Cape Town – The Proteas squad’s new but still uncapped leg-spinner Imran Tahir may remain in his ball of cotton wool for a little longer.
South Africa’s gut-wrenching, one-run defeat in the second one-day international against India on Saturday isn’t automatically going to result in a first call-up to the starting XI for Tahir in game three at Newlands on Tuesday – perhaps not if the smoke signals from Corrie van Zyl are anything to go by.
The coach was in an unusually reticent and guarded mood at Monday’s media briefing after the team training session at the venue, doubtless still irked at the manner in which his charges snatched defeat from the jaws of expected victory at the Wanderers after mostly bossing the fixture.
Asked whether some “experimentation” with other squad members might be in the pipeline for the day-nighter, Van Zyl said: “I think it’s difficult if you use one game for experimental purposes -- it’s less about experiments than getting the right team together to win a very important game tomorrow.
“It’s a question of picking ourselves up. We batted poorly (in Johannesburg); we know what went wrong and we have to rectify it.”
And when specifically asked about the likelihood of “an extra spinner” at Newlands – the inference presumably being a maiden opportunity for Tahir – Van Zyl replied: “We can consider it. Whether we do it, that’s a different thing.
“It comes down to balance ... the presence of (currently injured) Jacques Kallis would make things a little easier.”
It is difficult not to sympathise with the predicament of Van Zyl and the rest of the team brains trust: they will be extremely reluctant, especially if they find themselves bowling second under lights at the ground, to reduce their seam battery from four to three to accommodate an additional spinner.
Pitch curator Evan Flint has been pleased to grapple with rather more traditional summer conditions in the lead-up to this match than those he faced ahead of the recent third Test.
It should mean the proverbial “decent one-day track” although everyone who knows Newlands at night also knows that there is suddenly some extra nip for the seamers: more often than not, even a slightly sub-standard total in the region of 225 or 230 after batting first can be enough.
And the possibility of a straight swap of Tahir for off-spinner Johan Botha – the latter is still a certainty to go to the World Cup – also presents problems, because Botha is presently batting at No 7 and arguably a slot too high; Tahir would only aggravate an already obvious bugbear in that respect.
Still, Van Zyl was in no special mood to concede that the lower-order batting was a clear weakness.
“We batted really well in the first game (at Kingsmead). We just need to apply ourselves a little bit better. Some of our decision-making wasn’t good, but we’ve still got a very good team.”
He was also keen to stress that any subconscious, defeatist attitude if the reasonably key Newlands toss was lost would be unacceptable.
“You can’t take the attitude that if you lose the toss you can’t win. I know there’s a story at Newlands about batting second, but I’ve played myself in teams here where we’ve batted second and won so it’s not a big issue.”
A likelier prospect than Tahir playing, perhaps, is Faf du Plessis entering the batting picture for his debut, the prime candidate to sit out under those circumstances probably being David Miller.
*The South African squad for the 2011 World Cup is likely to be revealed around lunchtime on Wednesday.