Comment: Rob Houwing, Sport24 chief writer
Cape Town – They are very different
cricketers in many respects but certain encouraging similarities between
Lonwabo Tsotsobe and retired legend Shaun Pollock are also starting to become
increasingly obvious at one-day international level for the Proteas.
All-rounder Pollock, a veteran of 303 ODI
appearances for South Africa, was always renowned for his excellent run-choking
ability at the start of the opposition innings -- it is something that
Tsotsobe, the lanky 27-year-old left-armer from the Eastern Cape, is beginning
to become consistently and handily adept at as well.
He is not the overall cricketing package
Pollock was, of course, especially as he is a little awkward and ungainly in
the field, given his unusually tall physique, and does not pretend to match
“Polly’s” ability with the blade.
But in terms of the known things he is good
at, Tsotsobe’s progress cannot be allowed to go unnoticed.
He has confirmed of late that he is the
real deal as both a strike and containing factor for the Proteas, slotting back
into a groove in the first two ODIs against Sri Lanka after an injury-enforced
spell on the sidelines as though he had never been away from his post.
Certainly there were statistical reminders
of Pollock’s heyday in the limited-overs format in the way Tsotsobe performed
at Buffalo Park on Saturday, when South Africa moved into a commanding 2-0 lead
in the five-match series.
In the last few years before his
retirement, the Dolphins favourite used to routinely – some might argue too
routinely, at times – bowl six tight overs up front with the harder ball, and
then be a little more vulnerable to some “tap” deeper into the innings
(everybody is!), especially as he bowled much more within himself pace-wise
than in his injury-free, tearaway youth.
Just being a left-arm seamer gives Tsotsobe
a crucial area of difference, especially in terms of the variety he offers if
he opens the attack in tandem with a right-armer like Dale Steyn or Morne
Morkel (he did it with both over the course of the Paarl and East London games
But he is uncannily similar to Pollock in
the average pace he generates – usually a fraction under the 130km/h mark – and
his first-stint figures of 5-2-9-1 harked back to the prime days of the
Interestingly, “Lopsy” then had three
further short spells – first a standalone over, the 20th of the
Lankan innings, and then successive two-over stints (the 40th and 42nd
and finally two death overs, the 47th and 49th).
He was notably less successful in all these
spells, and his last four overs, which saw him leak a further 33 runs, slightly
spoiled his overall analysis although 10-2-43-2 is still very decent indeed on
Just like Pollock, his lack of real gas
makes him more of a risk factor later in the innings to batsmen quite confidently
two-stepping down the track for the big drive, and this is something that is
unlikely to have escaped the minds of Gary Kirsten, AB de Villiers and company.
Be that as it may, Tsotsobe’s ability up
front is becoming more and more valuable; he rolls his wrist for a decent
slower ball occasionally, whilst his stock delivery manages to be a “heavy
ball” on that awkward, unhittable length that threatens to find the splice of
And his role at Buffalo Park in restricting
the Lankans to 21 for two after the first 10 overs, batting first on the
sluggish surface, was pivotal to the outcome as the Proteas did not have to
chase down a too-challenging target.
He is developing a real reputation for
upfront economy on home soil: in 14 ODIs in South Africa, he has desperately
seldom been thrashed about the park and his tightness at the outset gives the
likes of Steyn and Morkel more of a licence to be aggressive without having to
be too concerned about a rapidly advancing scoreboard.
Even in one of his less illustrious overall
showings, when he travelled at a rate of 7.77 in the fifth and final ODI
against India at Centurion last summer, it was mainly down to later-innings
damage from Yusuf Pathan, who smacked a run-a-ball 105 and took two sixes and
two fours from one Tsotsobe over – South Africa later won anyway to seal the
The Warriors player’s ODI stats look rosy
after 25 appearances: 46 wickets at an average of 19.52 and economy rate of
4.52. Pollock’s career average was 24.50, although his economy rate was well
superior at 3.67.
Tsotsobe has been part of a good commitment
to discipline by the South African attack generally after the first two ODIs of
the present series, as reflected in the fact that they conceded the first extra
as late as the 27th over in East London, when JP Duminy slipped in a
The search for a definite death specialist
goes on, however, with nobody quite looking in the Andrew Hall or Charl Langeveldt
league for relish for the job ...
our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing