Cape Town – He is probably a little biased,
considering that he was a member of some famously lethal West Indies pace
quartets in his heyday, but Michael Holding feels the Proteas must maximise
their pace arsenal in Test matches.
The visiting SuperSport/Sky commentator
reckons the now-deposed world No 1 team, who come off successive series losses
to India away and England at home, should pin their faith in a “full house” of
quickies in many instances in the short- to medium-term future.
Holding was speaking after the Proteas’
impressive last-day demolition of remaining England resistance at Centurion on
Tuesday – with Kagiso Rabada and Morne Morkel to the fore – for a consolation
280-run triumph in the four-match series.
South Africa will have a problem fitting in
all of their best pacemen for the next series at home to New Zealand in early
spring, assuming that Dale Steyn and Vernon Philander, key absentees over the
last few weeks, are properly fit again.
That will especially apply if they stick to
the current formula of fielding seven specialist batsmen in the absence of a
true all-rounder, and wish to include a spinner amongst a four-man-only attack.
“South Africa should field four fast
bowlers on the majority of surfaces,” Holding said in examination of the
Proteas’ chances of bouncing back to the premier position in the pecking order
sooner rather than later.
If they failed under such circumstances, he
said, it would probably be more because of shortcomings from the batting
division than any perceived imbalance to their bowling.
Clearly by saying “majority” he was making
allowance for the fact that on the Subcontinent, for instance, it would usually
be foolhardy not to field at least one recognised spinner.
But the Proteas don’t revisit those unique
conditions for a while. As the ICC’s Future Tours Programme schedule stands,
their next assignment there will be in Sri Lanka in mid-2018.
If the Proteas take Holding’s advice, local
fans might get the first chance at long last, when the Black Caps visit
Kingsmead and SuperSport Park this August, to witness all of Steyn, Rabada,
Morkel and Philander in action together in the five-day format ... although
likely pitch slowness, pre-summer, would have to be taken into account in
shaping the bowling unit.
Rabada has already become a “must pick” for
Tests in the immediate future – hopefully his one-day load will be carefully
managed – following his amazing late-series feats against England, whilst Steyn
and Philander pretty much pick themselves on compelling statistical weight if
in best physical shape.
The last-named player also becomes an
important batting stabiliser in the No 8 berth; important considering the
ongoing vulnerability of South Africa’s tail despite some grittier collective
efforts of late.
But on Tuesday the lanky stalwart Morkel
also issued a powerful notice that he has no wish to be sidelined with one of
his most spiteful bursts of the summer on the closing day of the England
Whilst Rabada impressively did the majority
of the mop-up in the wickets column, Morkel got the procession rolling with a
snorter of a delivery to dismiss James Taylor caught behind, fending in front
of his nose, and also induced the dangerous Ben Stokes into a mistimed pull on
the increasingly uneven track to be pouched on the fence.
“I wouldn’t want to be facing Morne Morkel
on that track today,” said former England captain and adhesive batsman Mike
Atherton, reminding of the big man’s virtues when conditions do become
The 31-year-old has carried a major mental
and physical load in recent months, considering that he has often headed a
green-looking pace group, and also played seven Test matches in succession
(three in India, all four against England) since as recently as November 14.
If the Proteas do elect to go all-pace in
the immediate future, someone like Morkel would be freed up to bowl shorter,
more attacking bursts, helped by the fact that the seasoned Philander, for
example, is good at closing up one end economically once the new ball has lost
Now it just remains to be seen whether
Holding gets his wish ...
our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing