Cape Town - South
Africa may very well have settled, quite suddenly to some, on their World Cup
will have struck the minds of observers in the wake of Monday's revelation of a
not irrelevantly 15-strong (the CWC requirement) party for the last two of the
five one-day internationals against already-beaten Sri Lanka.
Or put it
this way, perhaps: if rookie paceman Anrich Nortje, who has intriguingly kept
his berth in the party as this advanced stage of preparations for the
bigger-picture needs, produces another promising performance or two at St
George's Park on Wednesday and/or Newlands on Saturday, it is hard to see the
selectors shifting any more furniture around for the English-staged major event
in late May.
simultaneously mean that top-order batsman Reeza Hendricks, who has gone
statistically backwards just when he needed to go a tad the other way, and
young all-rounder Wiaan Mulder - now cold-shouldered for the remainder of this
series - are unlikely to travel to the UK.
the dice looks loaded against Chris Morris - the mercurial, but fickle,
versatile customer who still has a well-subscribed fan club - returning from
the relative ODI wilderness for the World Cup.
All of the trio
mentioned might have to rely at this point on injuries causing some
unsettlement to World Cup plans, unless there is a surprise element of
hoodwinking going on from Linda Zondi's panel with their pick for the Port
Elizabeth and Cape Town dates ... and why would they be doing that at a time when
the Proteas have no further 50-overs obligations until CWC 2019?
restoration of Hashim Amla, Aiden Markram and JP Duminy to the group (hiked to
15 after being only 14-staffed for the first three ODIs) suddenly gives the SA
squad an infinitely more balanced and rounded look, and the wise men would face
few brickbats, frankly, if this really is their shadow World Cup arsenal.
be the case, Nortje will be an exciting wildcard in England in many respects:
perhaps the one member of the party that the rest of the world will know
relatively little about.
baby face at 25, the extremely brisk paceman from the Eastern Cape has played
in two ODIs in the series so far, at both Highveld venues of the Wanderers and
SuperSport Park, and looked up to the task even given the sometimes glaring limitations
of Sri Lanka's current ODI side.
7-0-33-1 on debut in the Bullring and then 7-0-25-2 at Centurion.
Apart from a
much-talked-about, tearaway start to the Mzansi Super League for Cape Town
Blitz several months ago - 10 wickets in three matches before an inconvenient
injury - Nortje has flown largely beneath the radar since then.
Of the four
out-and-out pacemen in the current group (also including Kagiso Rabada, Dale
Steyn and Lungi Ngidi) he will be the one least faced by the majority of
leading batsmen at the World Cup assuming that he gets his passage.
The one down
side is that he sports little or no experience of English conditions, but head
coach Ottis Gibson is seriously partial to raw pace and will know anyway that Nortje
is primarily part of the back-up ranks in the squad when it comes to pecking
order: the other three, plus leg-spinner Imran Tahir, are the likeliest
starting strike bowlers when all are suitably fit and fresh.
crack the World Cup nod, the most ODI caps Nortje can add to his current two
are another pair, making him easily the least street-smart at this level of the
went to the last World Cup in 2015 (and were beaten semi-finalists), the least
seasoned ODI player in the Proteas' ranks was Kyle Abbott with 11 appearances,
although he was already 27 then and much more well-travelled than Nortje - albeit
IPL-bound soon with the Kolkata Knight Riders - presently is.
actually took a zero-capper to the previous World Cup, on the Subcontinent in
2011: Imran Tahir.
Pakistani-born journeyman had only a few weeks earlier been finally cleared to
play for the country, and the Proteas opted not to play him in the last home
series before the tournament, against India, to keep him suitably shielded from
But he, like
Abbott, was already pretty well known on the broad global treadmill, as he was
31 at the time and with many, many stamps in his work-related passport.
nearly so many.
precisely what could make him an attractive SA feature in England ...
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