Look, just load that batting, Proteas!

2018-02-08 11:39
Farhaan Behardien (Gallo Images)

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 international series.

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 games.

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 parlous.

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 side.)

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 overs.

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 …

*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing

Read more on:    proteas  |  ab de villiers  |  cricket


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