Cape Town – The Proteas, safely installed in Saturday’s
final of the Zimbabwe triangular against Australia as log-toppers, seem likely
to stick to their latest template of beefing up the batting at the expense of
If they do so against their fierce old adversaries, JP
Duminy will be a central figure in an all-round role, having ticked that box
impressively in Thursday’s comfortable and generally satisfying 63-run victory
over the host nation in Harare.
The left-handed batsman not only contributed a workmanlike 51
at his best trade – including a century stand with the riotously in-form Faf du
Plessis – but then bagged his second best one-day international figures of 3/35
from 8.2 overs with his off-spin.
That versatile effort came at a fitting time because the
South African brains trust, to their credit, opted to take the necessary step
of bolstering their batting line-up to make the middle-order and tail look less
lightweight than had been the case for a while.
What it meant was that Duminy, who is much more used to
being a sixth bowling element in ODIs, was roped into more pressured service among
the frontline five as depth in that particular department was instead
In the end he was not quite required to bowl a full quota,
as Zimbabwe were bowled out in the 48th over, but that would have
been a likelihood if the minnows had batted better.
Duminy has only ever completed the maximum 10 overs four
times in his 125 ODIs, which include 79 bowling opportunities for him, and is
much more used to bowling often valuable half-doses, if you like.
So he was effectively handed greater responsibility on
Thursday and was up to the task on a track that again, admittedly, had a good
bit in it for spinners.
As a result, smart money suggests the Proteas may now go
into Saturday’s showpiece (09:30 SA time) with exactly the same combination
that saw off Zimbabwe solidly enough.
Selection options are quite limited anyway now that Ryan
McLaren has withdrawn injured from the remainder of the tournament, although
leg-spinner Imran Tahir having to be idle again would be cruel considering his
decent showings over the last fortnight or thereabouts – Aaron Phangiso has
similarly shone in the incumbent specialist spinner’s role.
Against Zimbabwe, South Africa relied on a seam attack
comprising Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel and Wayne Parnell, and Duminy and Aaron
Phangiso for spin, although they also experimented a bit by giving a couple of
overs to unlikely part-timers Rilee Rossouw and AB de Villiers.
Whether this sort of arsenal is sufficient to contain the
variety of extrovert stroke-players in the Aussie line-up is very debatable,
but they bowled with discipline and intelligence as a unit on Thursday and that
may just have been enough to warrant the status quo prevailing.
Besides, if the Proteas do decide to improve their bowling
options, it would only mean they restore a bit of a problem in batting depth
down the order.
Significantly, by giving Rossouw a further chance to announce
himself in ODIs after successive, start-out ducks, South Africa were able to
push David Miller one slot down the order to No 7, which just seems a better
fit for him in his tricky role as a “finisher”.
In the latest game, the Bloemfontein-born player finally
came good to some degree, and there is now a particularly weird statistical synergy
between the left-hander and a certain Sachin Tendulkar.
The Indian legend also got a pair of noughts at the outset
of his sublime ODI career, and in his third knock, against New Zealand in
Wellington in 1990, notched 39 off 36 balls with five fours. Rossouw against
Zimbabwe: 39 off 36 balls, five fours.
The bad news is that in his fourth game, the youthful
Tendulkar was run out for 10 against Sri Lanka.
But that statistic may not be enough for the Proteas’ planners
to contemplate discarding Rossouw from the final against Australia, now that
his confidence has had a timely, mini-boost ...
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