Cape Town – So fallible do the Proteas look in virtually
every position in the batting order at present that the best advice for them is
probably this: cram that department to the very maximum against India at the
Wanderers on Saturday.
It seems the most appropriate form of redeeming action - even
if it will also have a noticeably detrimental effect on bowling depth - in the
desperate quest to regain some sort of foothold in the six-match one-day
The ruthless Indians already cannot lose, now 3-0 to the
good after Wednesday’s further hiding for the hosts at Newlands, but there
would at least be crumbs of hope for a more sustained comeback by the Proteas
if they can get over the line on “pink day” which has traditionally been an
inspiring occasion for them.
It may well be decided, of course, that the likely return
(Proteas media officer Lerato Malekutu confirmed to Sport24 he joins the squad
on Friday) of superstar AB de Villiers will go a long way to restoring an even
keel to the disturbing ineffectual, rookie-laden and technically-challenged
batting area: enough not to alter the balance of the XI at the Bullring.
De Villiers brings 225 caps and not far off 10 000 runs to
the table, and it will be a surprise if he looks as ill at ease against the
cunning Indian wrist spinners, Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav, as various
incumbents – both greenhorn and more seasoned – have done over the first three
A personal thought, bearing in mind just how ropey the
batting has been, is that De Villiers just replacing someone else in the middle
order (it should probably be Khaya Zondo, who ate up far too many balls for a
humdrum score at Newlands) might not be enough.
After all, take away the fact that now absent Faf du Plessis
made almost half the runs alone in their only acceptably decent total thus far
– 269 at Kingsmead – and the statistical state of affairs with the blade is
Just another, aggravating issue the Proteas have, with their
mainline batsmen spluttering so as a unit, is that the desperate weakness of their
tail is being exposed, too.
In a perfect world, someone like Chris Morris – warts and
all, a fiery all-round scrapper – would be a No 8 “finisher” in the order
rather than the slightly more pressured seven, perhaps.
So shouldn’t head coach Ottis Gibson and company make that
happen at the Wanderers?
Yes, options from the present pool of players are
desperately lean, and form and confidence are widespread bugbears too, but by
ditching the fifth specialist bowler, they can potentially throw almost their entire
squad batting arsenal onto the park in Johannesburg.
Radical measure? There is arguably little choice.
In such circumstances, the batting down to No 8 could look
like this: Amla, Markram, Duminy, De Villiers, Behardien, Miller, Klaasen,
Morris (possibly with Messrs Rabada, Morkel and Tahir making up the rest of the
That does look significantly less brittle than the Newlands
line-up, especially if Farhaan Behardien finally gets a deserved gallop in the
series and the opportunity to demonstrate that he can replicate his excellent
domestic form this season one tier up; I would be inclined to ask him to
provide a hint of stability at five, leaving those immediately below him to
focus more, all going well, on acceleration duties toward the climax of the
The drawback, naturally, is that the orthodox fifth bowler role
would fall away, leaving the tab to be picked up by a collective of Duminy and
Markram (off-spin) plus Behardien (medium pace).
It could just be made to work, especially if the Proteas can
somehow manage to winkle out the rampant Virat Kohli early; that so nearly
happened in Cape Town before he blazed his way to 160 not out.
Duminy hearteningly put a bit of a lid on the Indian scoring
rate when first introduced to the attack at Newlands, and ended up completing a
full 10 credible enough overs (2/60).
It was the first time he produced a “Full Monty” as bowler
since a spell of 10-1-34-0 against Sri Lanka at Pallekele in July 2013.
A minimum of five or six overs from Duminy, with Behardien
and Markram potentially entrusted with the rest at the Wanderers?
It’s dangerous, but quite possibly a worthwhile risk
considering the bleak bigger picture from the last few days …
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