Proteas: All-rounder policy under fire

2017-05-28 06:30
Chris Morris (Getty)

Cape Town – South Africa surrendered their first bilateral one-day international series in eight on Saturday … an event hardly ideal considering that their first ICC Champions Trophy match comes exactly a week ahead.

The Proteas almost inexplicably failed to get across the line after excellent set-up work that preceded the dramatic last over and a half against England at Southampton’s Rose Bowl, eventually falling short by an agonising two runs to go 2-0 down with one match to play at Lord’s on Monday.

With two very much “in”, renowned sluggers at the crease – David Miller and Chris Morris - and 10 runs required off 10 deliveries, the odds enormously favoured the visitors at that point to level the series.

Instead a combination of an overly frantic approach (that was much-decorated Mark Boucher’s suggestion in his SuperSport punditry role) by the pair, who had done so much right beforehand, and high-quality, cool-headed death bowling from skiddy speedster Mark Wood, in particular, thwarted their bid.

The outcome only added fuel to the already generous school of global thought that South Africa are prime candidates to wilt in pressure situations – yes, that ‘c’ word enters play – and it was quite obviously an unwanted development for them as they zone in on the Champions Trophy.

Game one for the Proteas is against Sri Lanka at The Oval next Saturday (11:30 SA time).

Before that, there is the opportunity to stiffen their act appreciably, after two unusually broadly rag-tag performances on the trot, in the final encounter with the ominously sturdy-looking English outfit at the hallowed London venue.

Losing captain AB de Villiers wasn’t just spouting a cliché when he noted that there was “still a lot to play for” at Lord’s … he is right.

The Proteas did improve markedly from Headingley in at least one area, the collective batting showing, in the second ODI and if they can vastly remedy or eliminate altogether the unpalatable woes in the field (both catching and bowling) enough to win the consolation clash, there will be a semblance of renewed hope for a competitive Champs Trophy.

Right now their once-legendary fielding prowess is in perplexing near-tatters, a factor that contributed hugely to the Rose Bowl reverse where century-maker and man-of-the-match Ben Stokes profited zealously from being dropped (by Hashim Amla and Quinton de Kock respectively) off both of the first two balls he faced from luckless debutant left-arm spinner Keshav Maharaj.

Such gigantically expensive lapses – there were others, too – could prove fatal in the compressed, strength-versus-strength ICC event.

But South Africa are under scrutiny also for their spirited policy (in fairness it worked an awful lot last summer) of strongly favouring bowlers who can hold a bat, at the cost of others who could be branded much more “specialist” with the ball.

Several all-rounders, the majority of them pretty unused to English conditions, form part of the Proteas’ arsenal and a tweak on that front may be necessary after home batsmen prospered all too easily at times in Leeds and Southampton.

One critic who certainly feels South Africa are short of true breakthrough clout with the ball is Sky commentator and former England captain Nasser Hussain.

As Eoin Morgan and company blasted the host nation to yet another ODI total well in excess of 300, Hussain said: “You need your strike bowlers; you need to get wickets in modern (one-day internationals).

“In my day some of these South African all-rounders would have been branded bits and pieces players. The days of pure containing have gone; 10 overs nought for 40 … gone! It’s about wickets.”

Hussain said he was puzzled that vastly experienced paceman Morne Morkel, 32, had sat out both of the first two clashes: “Morkel seems a rhythm bowler … is playing (him) at Lord’s only the answer when the Champions Trophy is (immediately ahead)?”

One bit of appeasement for the fan club of 108-cap Morkel is that De Villiers confirmed even as early as Saturday’s toss that the beanpole fast bowler would get an outing in Monday’s match.

He looks more and more like the sort of missing link the Proteas could do with in a hurry …

*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing

Read more on:    proteas  |  david miller  |  chris morris  |  cricket


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