Proteas: Will Benoni be their ‘Brighton’?

2016-09-23 13:26
AB de Villiers (Gallo Images)

Cape Town – The Proteas minus both of their gun batsmen, AB de Villiers and Hashim Amla, in the lone one-day international against Ireland at Willowmoore Park on Sunday … it is a combined sacrifice of 15,187 runs and 343 caps in the format.

That seems reason enough for the second-tier side to believe they may avoid a thrashing, whilst the more optimistically-inclined in their ranks may even cheekily dream of a rank upset.

But what chance Benoni (10:00 start) turning into some sort of cricket equivalent of the Springboks’ painful Brighton loss to Japan at RWC 2015, almost exactly a year ago?

After all, however they choose to assemble their match-day XI from a squad of 13, the hosts will field an unusually experimental-looking line-up, given the expected blooding of several new caps to aggravate, if you like, the absence of De Villiers (injured) and Amla (resting ahead of the more heavyweight Australia series a few days later).

Throw in the fact that Rilee Rossouw, the hasty replacement for De Villiers earlier this week, hasn’t picked up a competitive bat since June 7, when he hurt a shoulder in Providence, Guyana – the left-hander may not necessarily play, anyway – and Irish eyes ought to be smiling even more.

It is possible that the Proteas will go into Sunday feeling confident enough with a top six comprising the following, rather more match-ready customers than Rossouw currently is: Quinton de Kock, Temba Bavuma (in maiden ODI), Faf du Plessis, JP Duminy, David Miller and Farhaan Behardien.

But that does not disguise the fact that there are ongoing concerns about the form and consistency at international level of several of these players, including all of Duminy, Miller and Behardien in their potentially key middle-order berths.

If Miller plays -- and quite likely earns a berth amidst the top five -- it is a further, necessary opportunity for this exciting but enigmatic striker to confirm his ability to both “build” a knock and then bring his renowned finishing powers into play when the time is most apt.

Put things this way: if the Irish attack manages to dislodge wunderkind De Kock and acting captain Du Plessis pretty cheaply, the potential for that giant-slaying would only increase, even if South Africa are also planning to give cracks to several raw bowling all-rounders (Dwaine Pretorius and Andile Phehlukwayo spring swiftly to mind) who may get a suitable opportunity to stamp their credentials with the blade.

Nevertheless, this is not intended as some sort of exercise to send unnecessary shivers down the spines of Proteas fans; they should still boast superior firepower in every department to put away Ireland comfortably.

Indeed, a runaway win despite the non-presence of routinely heavy-scoring De Villiers and Amla would be a nice little feather in the SA cap for future purposes given that the time increasingly nears when both the 32-year-old former and 33-year-old latter will no longer be available to the cause at all.

Nor is it as though recent Irish form suggests they are building any threatening head of steam against major powers; they were probably a tad more excitingly “emerging” three or four years ago than they are right now.

Their bowling seems especially fallible, given that in a trio of recent ODIs against top-rank powers during the UK/Irish season – one against Pakistan and two against Sri Lanka – they were seen off rather effortlessly and leaked 300 runs or more to the opposition each time they were in the field.

They could also do nothing more in the latest northern hemisphere season than share a series 2-2 with co-minnows Afghanistan, whilst from earlier CWC 2015 the Proteas should still harbour pleasant memories of walloping 411 for four against the Irish at Canberra, with centuries for each of Amla (159) and Du Plessis (109).

*SA have a record of played eight, won seven in ODIs at Willowmoore Park, the lone blemish coming against Sri Lanka in December 2002 when Marvan Atapattu was match-winner with 123 not  out in chasing down 254.

 *Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing

Read more on:    proteas  |  ab de villiers  |  cricket

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