Cape Town – Right,
so what if South Africa decide on Friday to “chicken out” of the possibility of
fielding five specialist bowlers in the first Test against India at Newlands?
has deviously been putting red herrings out there in media soundbites this
week, head coach Ottis Gibson is partial to the idea of going bowler-heavy at
of course, includes the possibility of an extra all-rounder – one of incumbent
Andile Phehlukwayo or fit-again Chris Morris.
the strong temptation may also remain, right up to the toss against the No
1-ranked outfit, to go the seven-batsmen route instead … thus also sidestepping
the burning issue of exactly which stroke-player to omit.
scenario becomes the reality, suddenly the extent of their part-time bowling
possibilities enters the radar.
because you always have to make allowance for the danger of one member of your
frontline attack (hopefully no more than that) breaking down during the game.
the Proteas put out the following, only four-strong bowling line-up: Vernon
Philander, Kagiso Rabada, Morne Morkel and Keshav Maharaj.
There may be
no need at all for a fifth element, but if the Indian batsmen show comfort and
resilience in the conditions and/or one of the seamers pulls up with a niggle, that
requirement could well suddenly arise.
So a not
insignificant part of the pre-game discussion, you have to imagine, will have
revolved around just how to “construct” that fifth-bowler chore in a time of
might well mean is a potentially three-pronged bits ‘n pieces package, made up
of young opening batsman Aiden Markram (off-spin), more seasoned co-opener Dean
Elgar (left-arm spin) and Temba Bavuma (medium-pace).
multi-talented personality that is AB de Villiers possibly also warrants
consideration, as just another proven element of his armoury is an ability to
bowl accurate, albeit fairly pedestrian wicket-to-wicket seam.
remember that he once sent down as many as 21 overs in a single Test innings,
during a ridiculously high-scoring draw on an Antiguan “road” in 2005, and
earned two West Indian wickets at a low cost of 49 runs?
he has bowled a grand total of just six Test overs since, and with body
preservation issues now ever-present and necessary, deep into his 34th
year, perhaps his bowling days are truly done.
note, skipper Faf du Plessis has also melted into complete inactivity as a once
reasonably serious leg-spinner – he boasts a five-for in a non-international
T20 match -- in recent years.
a bowling clone of De Villiers, in many respects, look no further than the several-years-younger
Bavuma, who also knows how, at the very least, to shuffle through a few overs while
keeping a pretty good lid on the scoring rate.
that in a second-innings stint of 7-1-29-1 (including the tail-end wicket of
Josh Hazlewood) in the victorious Perth Test last season where Dale Steyn
infamously broke down earlier in the contest; he also bowled five tight overs
in a later Test at Lord’s.
likelier fifth-bowler component might come from Markram and/or Elgar with their
tweaking fare, especially if sought deeper into the Newlands Test when
increased turn may be evident.
Elgar has plenty
of experience of spearing in his left-arm stuff, often economically, having
claimed almost 130 wickets across the three major formats in domestic cricket,
as well as 13 Test victims and a best in that landscape of 4/22 against the
very Indians in Chandigarh in 2015.
His haul on
that occasion, admittedly on a true dust bowl, included Messrs Pujara and
Rahane in the Indian top five.
He’s an interesting case as bowler, only having bowled 12 balls thus far in the
otherwise fairly meteoric start to his Test career as batsman, but I have heard
a guru or two insist he is more than simply a “casual” factor with his offies,
especially if he keeps working at his second trade.
23-year-old has already bowled, to varying degrees, in more than half of the 27
List A matches he’s participated in, which tells you something, and picked up
14 wickets at 22.28 including a best of 4/45.
So … do
Markram/Elgar/Bavuma amount to a viable, knock-the-parts-into-one “fifth
bowler” against the might of India? And just as importantly, on the pitch the
combatants will be presented with?
lies with Gibson and his co-strategists at Newlands …
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