SA spinners to shine in CL?
Cape Town - February 24 seems an age ago but it was the day on which the Proteas’ squad went into an ODI for the first time with three specialist spinners - plus two part-timers - up their sleeve in their opening match at the 2011 ICC World Cup against the West Indies at Delhi.
Even better was to follow when Johan Botha opened the bowling and dismissed the most dangerous opposing player, Chris Gayle, with his third delivery. Fast forward to March 6 and the Proteas have moved on to play England. This time Robin Peterson gets first use of the cherry and, after 17 deliveries (one was a wide), he has the incredible figures of 2.4-1-4-3 with Andrew Strauss, Kevin Pietersen and Ian Bell all back in the pavilion.
Peterson and Imran Tahir go on to fill star bowling roles to confirm that the Proteas have launched a new ODI game plan – one that is unorthodox, unpredictable and full of vibrancy.
Turn the clock forward now to this weekend. Friday sees the start of the 3rd edition of the Nokia Champions’ League T20 in India with both the South African franchises in early action. The Chevrolet Warriors play the Royal Challengers Bangalore on Friday and South Australia Redbacks on Sunday while the Nashua Mobile Cape Cobras start out against the New South Wales Blues on Saturday.
The Warriors’ match on Friday starts at 4.30pm (CAT) and the matches on Saturday and Sunday at 12.30pm (CAT). The tournament is being televised live by SuperSport.
If spin bowling has become an important strategy in ODI cricket, it will be even more so in the T20 game. It was an effective strategy that was first identified by Mickey Arthur when he was coaching the Warriors when the T20 Domestic Competition was launched in 2004. He had both Peterson and Botha at his disposal and did what was then almost unheard of: he used spin bowlers in the death overs.
We can expect plenty of spin – of the cricketing type! – from both the Warriors and the Cobras. The Warriors are in the fortunate position that their three main spinners – Botha, Nicky Boje and Jon-Jon Smuts – are all genuine all-rounders so that the balance of their side will not be affected.
The Cobras also have three all-rounders in this department in Peterson, Justin Ontong and JP Duminy plus the young Chinaman talent, Michael Rippon, who took the domestic tournament by storm. Not much was known about this 20-year-old talent at the time (he was only 19 then) and he is totally inexperienced with just half-a-dozen T20 domestic appearances, 1 List A and yet to make his first-class debut, even at provincial level! So there may be some batting talent there that we are yet to experience!
The emergence of spin as a major limited overs tactic has had other spin-offs. One is that it seems to have revitalised a forgotten Protea, Roelof van der Merwe, who goes into the Champions’ League for Somerset on the back of outstanding form for them in the England domestic T20 competition.
Another is the fact that it has exposed our own batsmen to quality spin bowling and the likes of Hashim Amla and AB de Villiers, among others, rate among the best players of spin bowling in the world.