Wiese wakes us all up

2015-01-15 07:18
David Wiese (Gallo Images)

Cape Town - Hands up anyone who fancied the leading wicket-taker, by more than double anyone else’s tally, in the Twenty20 international series between South Africa and West Indies would be David Wiese?

Let’s face it, the lanky all-rounder is more renowned for his explosive hitting bursts down the order when the mood grabs him - whether it is at domestic or occasional international level - than for any special prowess with his medium-pace bowling.

Perceived shortcomings in the latter department have often been cited as key reasons for his fairly tenuous, up to now, hold on a Proteas shirt (eight T20 caps since August 2013, though no ODIs thus far).

He has been deemed vulnerable to some “tap” because he is considerably less than express pace and his varietal repertoire has tended to be pretty limited.

Just for example, in three matches for the Titans in the Momentum One-Day Cup competition this season, his bowling haul stands at an unexciting 1/102 and he has had lean seasons with the ball previously - after all of 94 List A games, his bowling average is a ho-hum 35.58.

What has seemed mightily apparent in the last few days, however, is that 29-year-old is wising up very quickly to the requirements for status as a class act in that regard ... and perhaps the higher level of the game also brings out the best in his competitive juices?

In a high-scoring T20 series, won 2-1 by the visitors although the Proteas pulled back “dead” game three with commendable spirit and urgency at Kingsmead on Wednesday night, Wiese unexpectedly hogged the bowling limelight as he grabbed nine scalps across the trio of games at an average of 9.55 and very acceptable economy rate under the circumstances of just over eight.

That put him way ahead of the chasing pack, again a little curiously led by the largely out-of-form Wayne Parnell who managed four wickets (two each in Cape Town and Durban) despite imperfect showings; the left-armer at least confirmed that he does have a knack of striking in the wickets column even when his consistency in hitting the right spots goes irritatingly AWOL.

You have to be careful not to read too much into sudden fits of bowling - or batting, for that matter - success in the chaotic world that is Twenty20 cricket, where wickets so often come to swirling catches in the deep, for instance, in the desperate heat of a chase.

But there is also a case for saying bowlers deserve all the luck that comes their way, given how heavily loaded the format is in favour of batsmanship.

And what is in the record books sits there indelibly: on Wednesday Wiese became the second South African after Ryan McLaren (5/19 against the same foes at North Sound in 2010) to earn a five-wicket match haul.

The Roodepoort-born competitor with the often extravagant facial hair picked up an analysis of 4-0-23-5, to catapult him to 12th in the world for best figures in T20 internationals - it may be a while before top-placed Sri Lankan mystery spinner Ajantha Mendis (6/8 versus Zimbabwe in 2012) is knocked off his perch.

Fluke performance? Recent Wiese showings for the shortest-form Proteas suggest not.

His resourceful and cool-headed showing in Durban was a swift follow-up to a strong return spell in the Wanderers slugfest on Sunday where he, more than anyone, gave his country fresh sniffs of victory for a while after the Chris Gayle devastation.

Wiese finished with 3/43 after ominously leaking 27 runs in his initial salvo, so he ticked boxes for composure amidst the mayhem of that extraordinary day.

Look just a bit further back in his appearances, to November, and a lone opportunity for him in the decisive third T20 clash with Australia at Stadium Australia in Sydney: he picked up 3/21 in a full quota of overs as the tourists were pipped by two wickets with one ball left.

That means Wiese has accounted for 12 batsmen in his last four T20 internationals. The maths is easy: an average of three wickets per match, and just the hint that a “golden arm” of some sort is taking shape.

There is clearly, increasingly, something about him on the bowling front, to go with his known bludgeoning capabilities with bat in hand.

At Kingsmead on Wednesday he mixed up his pace and angles of attack shrewdly, and is not afraid to roll his fingers over the ball for bamboozlement purposes while not sacrificing much in control.

More and more, it seems, Wiese will raise the question of whether his swelling reputation at T20 international level is attractively transferable to the Proteas’ 50-overs agenda.

Yes, it will inevitably also have plenty of folk harrumphing: “Shouldn’t David Wiese be in the World Cup squad?”

In fairness to the selectors, Wiese’s stellar bowling showings against West Indies came after the 15-man party for Australasia had been named for an obligatory deadline.

But the Durban game did remind us all of this much: if emergency additional personnel are required by South Africa at some stage during the lengthy tournament in Australasia, then Wiese is an enticing option as an all-rounder ... and ditto timely century-maker Morne van Wyk as an assertive front-end batsman with wicketkeeping as an extra tool.

*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing


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