Ouch... NOW Proteas feel Rilee’s absence

2017-02-03 13:00
Rilee Rossouw (Gallo)

Cape Town – He is a plucky, resilient character well used to harsh scrutiny... and yes, that time has probably come around again for Farhaan Behardien.

The wiry middle-order batsman and occasional slow/medium-pace bowler almost certainly returns to the South African “first team” for the third one-day international against Sri Lanka at the Wanderers on Saturday (13:30 start).

He was effectively the reserve batsman for the first two contests, both won by the Proteas with consummate ease, and with the revelation that no replacement will be summoned to fill the temporary gap left by David Miller, can be expected to directly deputise for the injured, in-form bludgeoner at No 6 in the Bullring fixture.

It is highly unlikely that the team’s brains trust will take a less predictable route in team selection for the game which could put the series to bed early – any alternative move, involving bringing in an extra bowler (Tabraiz Shamsi) or bowling all-rounder (Dwaine Pretorius) would leave them just too batting-light.

On his home ground, the 27-year-old all-rounder Pretorius, who has only had three prior ODIs, arguably has a better chance of a call-up but that would far likelier be in place of one of the other members of the current attack than with specialist batting thoughts in the top six in mind.

So Behardien adding to his tally of 51 appearances appears a strong prospect on Saturday, unless the novel step is taken of fielding a veritable hatful of bowling all-rounders in berths six to nine – Pretorius, Chris Morris, Wayne Parnell and Andile Phehlukwayo.

But the untimely, remainder-of-series loss of Miller, while he nurses a finger injury sustained in the Kingsmead match on Wednesday, also brings a notably painful reminder of the extent to which Rilee Rossouw will be missed as he gears up for a new life as a Kolpak exile.

In short, he would have been the perfect next cab off the rank -- for any team in the world? -- at a time like this, and it is fortunate that the Proteas are playing a limited, increasingly demoralised Sri Lankan outfit: frankly, there’s a case for saying they might be able to wrap up the series spoils even if they fielded only 10 men from here to the finish of the five-match roster.

National coach Russell Domingo was animated a few weeks ago in his anger and regret over Rossouw’s decision to quite suddenly pull the plug, saying that he was being groomed as some sort of left-handed equivalent to AB de Villiers for pure explosiveness at the crease.

It so happens that Rossouw had a menacingly swelling reputation for relishing limited-overs combat at the Wanderers, too.

In two ODIs at the venue thus far, the unusually crisp striker had amassed 203 runs at an average of 101.50, and as “Pink Day” is revisited at the Wanderers on Saturday, it is worth recalling that the first knock came in the equivalent, charity-driven fixture of January 2015.

On that occasion, South Africa lashed the second highest ODI total of all time – that mark still stands – as they posted 439 for two, Rossouw reaching his maiden century in the format (128 off 115 deliveries).

He was remarkably eclipsed in weight-of-runs terms by both Hashim Amla (153 not out) and De Villiers, who played the innings of his international life to this point with 149 off a dazzling, almost ridiculous 44 balls.

But Rossouw was back in commanding mode in the Bullring in what turned out to be his last Johannesburg ODI earlier this season, scoring 75 against the visiting, slaughtered Australians.

The one thing you have to acknowledge about Behardien is that he is a different cricketing beast to Rossouw, so a direct comparison is just a little unfair.

The former is much more of a “nudger” and strike-rotator; a good enough man to have towards the finish of an ODI innings by the Proteas if an established, more senior stroke-player is still at the crease.

He is also capable, as evidenced from certain Twenty20 knocks, of accelerating spiritedly himself and finding the boundary a lot during “death” overs, and is a committed and nippy fielder to add to his occasional bowling possibilities.

Yet the question undoubtedly remains: does Behardien really justify a place in an ODI top six?

Statistically, measuring him up against someone like Rossouw is something of a no-contest: Behardien has 948 runs at 30.58 from his 51 games, and Rossouw 1,239 runs at 38.71 from considerably fewer appearances (36).

Whereas Rossouw has achieved three centuries – including in his last ODI against the Aussies at Newlands – Behardien sports a top score of 70.

Admittedly, the man from Bloemfontein has tended to have better opportunities to get properly stuck in, having been employed in most berths within the top six, including opener.

Behardien also doesn’t stand back to Rossouw for strike rate: his is actually a fraction superior at 95.46, to 94.36.

But the 33-year-old is effectively “on trial” once again if he is recalled to the middle order on Saturday, and then a bit beyond.

At least he is well used to that phenomenon...

*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing

Read more on:    proteas  |  rilee rossouw  |  cricket


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