SA fighting chance at ICC bash

2013-03-25 12:30
Hashim Amla (Gallo)
Cape Town – It is unlikely that there will be a clear favourite at the swansong ICC Champions Trophy in the United Kingdom during June, giving the Proteas as good a chance as any team.

South Africa still lie fourth on the one-day international rankings after completion of a satisfying enough 3-2 series victory over similar mid-tablers Pakistan at Willowmoore Park on Sunday.

They did depend pretty heavily on the formidable weight of runs from AB de Villiers (367 at an average of almost 92) for the success in a competitive, topsy-turvy set of fixtures, but at the same time the captain’s plunder was a reminder that the national team will always boast several brilliant individuals, even if the current, overall team dynamic still seems to come up a tad short for true cohesiveness.

It is also worth bearing in mind that the Proteas earned this series win without a few established stars, enabling certain fringe players to further – at least in some cases – their credentials and experience of the big-time.

The rest of the world probably has no special reason to fear South Africa’s ODI class of 2013, as it is nothing like the finished article the Test squad is, but at the same time South Africa also has no grounds for fearing the remainder of the pack, either.

India stand atop the rankings, and actually square up to the Proteas in the tourney opener (Group B) at Cardiff on June 6, before De Villiers and company also meet Pakistan and West Indies with the top two sides across the two groups cracking semi-final berths.

That country has come off a 4-0 home Test series crushing of Australia, but whether at five-day or one-day level, the Indians are inevitably much more formidable on their own turf than away from the Subcontinent.

The South African selectors are unlikely to be too revolutionary in picking their 15-strong squad for the event, although room will have to be made for indispensible all-rounder Jacques Kallis (shrewdly rested against Pakistan) and also JP Duminy, as long as he has suitably recovered by then from his long-term injury.

Assuming that Graeme Smith and Faf du Plessis, both of whom got injured during the Pakistan series, are also back in the saddle, players like Kyle Abbott, Aaron Phangiso and possibly one of Colin Ingram or Farhaan Behardien may have to be sacrificed for the UK mission.

The left-handed Ingram has certainly shown he can play at international level, but he has a bit of a reputation at present for either “going big or not at all” – as evidenced by a terrific first-up century against Pakistan at Bloemfontein but then further scores of 0, 17, 0 and 15.

Middle-order customer Behardien, by contrast, produced important little cameos at the crease in at least three of the five games against the Pakistanis, so he might pip Ingram to a spot if it does come down to one or the other – the latter might become the designated standby batsman back home.

South Africa’s “issues” around the No 7 spot or thereabouts in the order are showing some signs of being resolved, as both David Miller (albeit batsman only) and the more versatile Ryan McLaren rather re-announced themselves during the latest series.

There is possibly a case for taking along a second specialist spinner, although Phangiso is also a left-armer, so it would seldom make sense fielding he and the infinitely more experienced Robin Peterson together – I still believe the Proteas miss steely package Johan Botha more than they realise.

If Duminy is fighting fit on all fronts, his useful off-spin does mean that the squad at least has “one and a half” spinners in the ranks.

Quinton de Kock? The Lions rookie has a few lingering technical shortcomings at the crease, but his raw talent is worth having as a possible mystery factor to many opponents – and with De Villiers sometimes troubled by his back, he would be extremely valuable as immediate wicket-keeping back-up.

My preferred 15-man  SA squad, which might vary little from the selectors’ choice:

AB de Villiers (captain), Hashim Amla, Graeme Smith, Jacques Kallis, Faf du Plessis, JP Duminy, David Miller, Ryan McLaren, Robin Peterson, Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel, Lonwabo Tsotsobe, Rory Kleinveldt, Farhaan Behardien, Quinton de Kock

*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing

Read more on:    proteas  |  hashim amla  |  ab de villiers  |  cricket

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