Proteas set to blood Rilee

2014-08-19 23:30
Rilee Rossouw (Gallo Images)

Cape Town – South Africa’s third and final one-day international in the bilateral series against Zimbabwe on Thursday will be a dead-rubber one ... but to Rilee Rossouw it will be anything but a low-stakes encounter.

The left-handed batsman from the Knights seems virtually certain to be blooded in Proteas colours in Bulawayo as the superpower to the south aims for a 3-0 clean-up of the series in their neighbouring country.

It would be cruel of the team’s brains trust not to, after captain AB de Villiers dropped the heaviest possible hint on Tuesday evening that the 24-year-old would get an outing then.

During the post-match presentation from the second ODI, won by the Proteas by 61 runs, De Villiers said of the remaining fixture: “There will definitely be a couple of changes here and there.”

He said that Hashim Amla, who has made tons of runs across the formats this winter in both Sri Lanka and Zimbabwe, was due a break, suggesting that Rossouw, the only additional specialist batsman in the current squad, would directly replace him at or very near the top of the order.

“We (could) see what Rilee Rossouw is all about.”

There would certainly be no harm in a rotational switch for Thursday, giving ace accumulator Amla – he has carried a new burden of late as Test skipper – the chance to freshen himself mentally for the looming triangular series also featuring No 1-ranked ODI side Australia, and coach Russell Domingo and company the opportunity to gauge Rossouw’s credentials as they plan increasingly for the World Cup early in 2015.

The Bloemfontein-born stroke-player would be under a bit of pressure to make a swift impression, because the Proteas’ first-choice batting line-up is reasonably settled and likely to be returned to full strength for the start of the triangular, when presently resting fast bowlers like Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel will also be back in action.

But Rossouw has a chance of making the broader squad for the World Cup, especially if he manages to get more exposure in the various lead-up ODIs scheduled over the next few months.

If he does get the nod as now expected on Thursday, it will be fortified by the knowledge that he is there based strongly on rampant form for South Africa ‘A’ in Australia recently.

His last match was the first unofficial Test against Australia ‘A’ in Townsville, which the tourists won and Rossouw blasted 231 in the South African first innings.

His previous two innings, just as pertinently, were 69 and 74 during a one-day tournament against the National Performance Squad in Darwin, whilst a little earlier than that he got 137 against India ‘A’.

Rossouw has spent several seasons, even though there have been occasional trough periods, patiently staking his international claims for the Knights at franchise level; his statistics include 5,426 first-class runs at 45.21 and 3,310 List A runs at 38.04.

The Proteas have a six-day break after Thursday’s last ODI in Bulawayo, before they meet the Aussies for the first time in the triangular next Wednesday in Harare.

Apart from the obvious fact that he is leader of the troops, De Villiers is one senior batsman highly unlikely to want to rest for the dead-rubber clash, as he has unusually laboured against the minnow Zimbabweans on the tour thus far, making seven in the lone Test and 21 and one in the first two one-dayers.

You have to think he is due one of his stroke-playing “explosions” ...

*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing

Read more on:    proteas  |  rilee rossouw  |  cricket

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