Durban - Australian captain Steve Smith hinted on arrival in South Africa that he wondered if any slow pitches would be served in the upcoming three T20 Internationals against the Proteas to simulate conditions for the World Cup in India.
He said it more tongue in cheek but it seems someone in a high place was listening.
Yesterday, general chatter around Kingsmead, scene of Friday’s first T20I, was that instruction had been received from Cricket South Africa to prepare a low and slow wicket.
There are speckles of different grass on the strip and with the Newlands wicket also low and slow — as the past weekend’s One Day Cup final showed — the Wanderers looks to be the odd one out as it is highly unlikely the traditional batsmen’s wicket with the ball coming onto the bat and flying all over the place will be tampered with.
One man who will have to bowl on whatever strip is prepared plus adapt to what will be dished up in India is speedster Kyle Abbott.
He has established himself in the Protea T20 and ODI squad and, in the absence of Morné Morkel, will bowl in tandem with the returning Dale Steyn.
Abbott is one of those honest cricketers who quietly goes about his business, taking the good with the bad, but there’s a sparkle in his eye knowing he is being given more game time and his death bowling is a major and vital weapon.
Although the World Cup is around the corner — the Proteas fly next Thursday — it’s one game at a time and the three matches against the Aussies are of prime importance.
“We got together for the first time today [Wednesday] and this is a series to win for us,” said Abbott.
“It’s good preparation and our focus on the World Cup will kick in once we are in India.”
For the moment though, there is the chance to attack the Aussies with Dale Steyn alongside.
“It goes without saying that having Dale back is a massive plus for us and creates a buzz around the team and the changeroom,” said Abbott.
“His experience alone is invaluable as he has played a lot in India and against the Australia. We hope he stays fit and in the current shape he is in.”
Abbott added that the Protea T20 squad were a settled unit having won series in Bangladesh, India and at home against England but for him, he needed to be kept running and idling like a purring car engine.
“I am one of those bowlers who feels he must bowl a lot, get a rhythm and get game time,” he said.
“It can be quite nerve-wracking at times taking the new ball and having such expectation on your shoulders, but it’s an honour to be in that position and it’s satisfying when things go right.”
As a unit, Abbott felt the bowling was good and gave credit to bowling coach Charl Langeveldt who had focused on death bowling and closing out an innings with the ball.
“We’ve got players who have been around in this format for a while and know their roles. Once that is identified, things should click into place and work for us,” he said.
With much being in the batsmen’s favour in the short game these days, Abbott is always working on different deliveries, putting in the effort at the nets and gleaning advice from the likes of AB de Villiers and Faf du Plessis.
“Batsmen have taken the game forward and blast away from the first over, trying to dominate the six-over powerplay and likewise bowlers need to take their game forward,” he said.
“Bowling in the nets must be the same as in a match.”
It’s tough being a bowler but Abbott has done his homework. “We analyse the opposition, noting their weak areas and hatching plans to get them out or keep them quiet. Bowling is always work in progress and in a T20, who knows who will have the final say.”
Tomorrow’s action at a sold-out Kingsmead starts with the Proteas’ women’s side meeting their West Indian counterparts at 12.45 pm and the men starting at 6 pm. Both matches are telecast on SS2 from 12.40 pm.