London – Some of their more deeply-scrutinised players showing sound mettle in the ICC Champions Trophy opener against Sri Lanka makes it unlikely that South Africa will tinker with their line-up for the follow-up fixture against Pakistan at Edgbaston on Wednesday.
The Proteas appeared to get their selection ducks in a suitably shrewd row as the ‘Lankans were brushed aside by 96 runs at The Oval here on Saturday.
Any alterations will probably only occur if conditions differ very markedly in Birmingham, although the ongoing, reasonably unsettled weather in much of England suggests AB de Villiers’s outfit have their current balance right between seam and spin options, in particular.
At The Oval, long-serving fast bowler Morne Morkel was preferred to one of the generous stock of bowling all-rounders in the party, and his introduction to the attack as first change – after Kagiso Radaba and Wayne Parnell had taken some pronounced initial “tap” – was one key element in the Proteas quelling the temporary chaos and gradually getting well on top in the Sri Lankan chase of 300.
Morkel, who should keep only getting better and better after relatively little bowling on the English trip so far, warrants retention in Birmingham.
After his pretty traumatic first five overs on Saturday, that always-perplexing phenomenon Wayne Parnell might have seemed a candidate for the chop; his shorter fare, especially, was quite severely punished by the daring Sri Lankan left-handed openers, Niroshan Dickwella and acting captain Upul Tharanga.
As he leaked as many as 45 runs from the first half-quota of his spell, Parnell ran at least some risk of coming close to emulating his worst concession of runs off a full 10 overs allocation in 63 previous one-day internationals – 95 against India at Gwalior several years ago when Sachin Tendulkar blasted 200 not out.
Yet like Rabada at the other end, ill-luck played at least some part in his early expensiveness: Sri Lanka always seem to go like crazy (too crazy, perhaps?) in the first 10 overs before floundering thereafter, and history only repeated itself at The Oval in their eighth consecutive loss to SA.
Perhaps more educative, and something that works in his favour, is that the 27-year-old Parnell, no longer any kind of rookie at the highest level, instead produced a near-inspired comeback spell from the other end later on.
It did not produce a wicket, which may have caused some observers to slightly overlook its merits, but he suddenly started landing the ball pretty regularly on a dime on a beautiful, fuller length as he slanted the ball across the ‘Lankan right-handers to induce play-and-misses.
Parnell’s second burst saw him concede not one further boundary as his five overs -- in roughly the middle-innings period -- surrendered an encouragingly flimsy nine runs to convincingly repair his prior statistical damage.
Coming on top of his sprightly showing in the Lord’s dead-rubber match against England, where he and Rabada had engineered a violent, quick-fire collapse to 20 for six, the left-arm seamer also deserves to stay in the Proteas’ brew for the Pakistan challenge.
With the current attack, including Imran Tahir roaring back to demonstrate anew his deadly multi-skilled strike efficiency as a spinner, South Africa are also fortunate to have occasional off-break man JP Duminy potentially sharing one 10-overs load with a seam bowler if it becomes necessary on a turning or gripping surface.
On that score, Duminy’s highest tally of runs in 12 ODI innings (38 not out, strike rate 190 at the back end of the Proteas’ knock) will have given him a fresh sense of personal “feel good” after another iffy period in his rockier-than-it-should-be topflight career.
It was his second unbeaten knock, coming off the 28 which helped complete the victory job against England at Lord’s on a spicy track, so his middle-order berth seems that key bit better battened down again …
Likely SA team to tackle Pakistan: Hashim Amla, Quinton de Kock, Faf du Plessis, AB de Villiers (capt), David Miller, JP Duminy, Chris Morris, Wayne Parnell, Kagiso Rabada, Morne Morkel, Imran Tahir.
*Rob Houwing is attending the Champions Trophy for Sport24. Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing