Proteas: Ottis's 'four quickies' hint

2018-12-28 19:04
Duanne Olivier
Duanne Olivier (Gallo Images)

Cape Town - Back to four pacemen, and a five-strong overall attack?

Don't write that off as a possibility for South Africa in the second Test against Pakistan at Newlands.

The Proteas on Friday completed a comfortable six-wicket triumph, well within three days, in the first clash at SuperSport Park so will be aiming to kill off the three-Test series early, in the traditional New Year fixture.

They did it in game one with a balance to their XI - on a pace-friendly surface; probably overly so - of seven batsmen and four bowlers.

But with Centurion revelation Duanne Olivier, trumpeted afterwards by captain Faf du Plessis as their "enforcer", duly handed the player-of-the-match mantle for his figures of 11/96, the SA brains trust have a pleasant but pronounced dilemma over team composition for the next Test.

That is because Newlands-relishing bowling all-rounder Vernon Philander will almost certainly be fit for recall.

A straight swap between Olivier and Philander will still be near the forefront of discussion, cruel though it would be on the former, but head coach Ottis Gibson also dropped a telling hint when interviewed pitch-side at Centurion by the SuperSport pundits shortly after the win had been sealed.

"We want to play with four fast bowlers (whenever) we can," he reminded, while adding the proviso that "we'll see what we see when we get to Cape Town and assess conditions".

That could just mean that the Proteas take the step, while not without certain risks, of trimming their batting line-up by one to ensure a seam quartet of Philander (also assuming the No 7 batting slot, with Quinton de Kock advancing to six), Olivier, Dale Steyn and Kagiso Rabada plus left-arm spinner Keshav Maharaj.

While there is still a discernible skittishness to their batting unit as a collective, positives at SuperSport Park included Temba Bavuma's pleasing authority and technical tightness on the tricky surface, Dean Elgar's typically gutsy second innings and - perhaps most importantly of all - veteran superstar Hashim Amla ending the game unbeaten on 63 from a 224-minute vigil that will have done wonders for his confidence after a very lean period.

If South Africa do opt to sacrifice a batsman at Newlands, the likeliest candidate now seems Theunis de Bruyn, who scored 29 and 10 in the first Test although he played some crisp, bullish strokes, while he lasted, each time.

With the batting department not exactly a notable strength for Pakistan at present - either in quality in the premier positions or depth through the order - the Proteas' masterminds may feel that they can engineer enough runs to eclipse their opponents on that front even with one specialist left out, while giving their pacemen, especially, a lot of freedom and freshness to bomb the tourists into submission if they do go the four-strong seam route.

Bear in mind that the pitch at Newlands should be a fair bit truer for batsmen than the one presented on the Highveld over the last few days.

That would be a welcome development both for watching purists and the South African stroke-players themselves who have had to deal with a few just too lottery-like home strips over the last couple of Test seasons.

If the Proteas cut their frontline batting to six, it would be a repeat of the formula used to outsmart India (by 72 runs) in the equivalent New Year Test at Newlands last summer ... which may be simply another reason to seduce them into adopting that policy again.

Likely team, if they favour that six-five formula, on January 3: Dean Elgar, Aiden Markram, Hashim Amla, Faf du Plessis (capt), Temba Bavuma, Quinton de Kock, Vernon Philander, Keshav Maharaj, Dale Steyn, Kagiso Rabada, Duanne Olivier.

*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing

Read more on:    pakistan  |  proteas  |  ottis gibson  |  cricket


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