Cricket World Cup 2011

Acid test for SA's 'middle'

2011-03-10 13:01
Morne van Wyk (Gallo)

Comment: Rob Houwing, Sport24 chief writer

Cape Town – Saturday’s World Cup match against India in Nagpur may well prove to be the first opportunity to gauge whether the Proteas do boast sufficient health in the middle and lower-order batting.

It remains the one area of their armoury – more pertinently, its ability to up the tempo in the late overs of an innings – which a good many reputable critics pinpoint as an ongoing weakness in their makeup on paper.

And the department has yet to be properly tested at this event, when you consider the circumstances surrounding South Africa’s three outings thus far in Group B.

First they beat West Indies by seven wickets with all of 43 balls to spare, then truly thrashed minnows the Netherlands by 231 runs with most of the Proteas’ runs coming from upper-order mean like AB de Villiers and Hashim Amla, and suffered their only defeat by six runs to England on a difficult Chennai pitch hardly characterised by its willingness to aid the cause of “acceleration”.

If reports from India are to be believed, Saturday’s pitch ought to be much closer to those typical Subcontinent ODI ones, where the general philosophy is to “go hard up front and then go even harder”.

So whatever its staffing composition on the day, South Africa’s middle-order may finally be required to allay fears that they will struggle to get a suitable degree of a crack-on – unless it is one of those matches where very few wickets fall and someone at the top of the order gets a massive score.

Earlier this week I helped anchor an Old Boys event at Wynberg BHS, where one of their most luminary cricketing sons, Langebaanweg-born England batsman Allan Lamb, was the special guest.

It was an off-the-record affair and those who know charismatic “Lambie” will also know that much of what he said might be described as just a little X-rated anyway.

But he would hopefully not object to my revealing a couple of his standard cricket observations, one of which was his own resolute belief that South Africa have significantly erred by not naming at least one known big-hitter in their squad for a role around No 7 or 8.

Lamb, who played in two World Cup finals for his adopted country, was also adamant that an old hand like the 292-cap Mark Boucher “would probably have got you over the line” in the nail-biter against England.

For the record, he fancies at this point that the World Cup winners will come from one of the three major Subcontinent powers or Australia – not South Africa.

Just a day after Lamb spoke to a full clubhouse, of course, a certain Albie Morkel – also debatably left out of the World Cup picture – smashed a tornado-like 71 not out at a strike rate of 263 as he did his level best for the Titans to thwart the Cape Cobras’ charge to the final of the Standard Bank Pro20 competition.

So you could say that the ante has been upped a wee bit for the Proteas’ middle-order personnel in Nagpur ...


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