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
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
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
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
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.
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