Proteas: Pretorius adds to the ‘crush’

2017-02-22 12:25
Dwaine Pretorius (Getty)

Cape Town – South Africa received their overdue correction in the results column on Wednesday … but perhaps also unearthed yet another all-rounder who will stick up his hand vigorously for ICC Champions Trophy squad selection in mid-year.

It wasn’t a disaster from a Proteas perspective that New Zealand levelled the five-match one-day international series 1-1, courtesy of a six-run triumph in Christchurch.

In some senses, you might say the tourists experienced a bit of mental pressure-relief, as the outcome signalled the end of their 12-strong run of victories in the format.

It put paid to their bid to be the standalone best South African team of all time for consecutive wins, an achievement they must now share with an earlier outfit under Graeme Smith’s charge in the mid-2000s who also sported a dozen uninterrupted triumphs.

While they have seldom given the impression of complacency along the way – if anything, they nearly snatched game two against the Black Caps bravely from the fire after a heavier setback had looked likely – the outcome gives AB de Villiers and company the opportunity to breathe again, and engage in a bit of constructive introspection with that ICC tournament in June in mind.

There was always the risk of their peaking too soon, and for now they can simply focus anew on the shorter-term target of just sharpening up suitably to beat tough nuts New Zealand in this already ding-dong series.

Hostilities shift to Wellington’s Westpac Stadium on Saturday (a slightly kinder start of 03:00 SA time, for TV-watching fans back home) for the key middle fixture, and the Proteas are sure to want to be able to reinstate main strike bowler Kagiso Rabada to the XI.

He sat out the Hagley Oval clash with a reported “knee niggle” and his rare absence may have gone some way to explaining why the host nation were able to post a commanding total of 289, batting first on a slow but generally trustworthy track, for the loss of only four wickets with century-making stalwart Ross Taylor to the fore.

One man Rabada almost certainly won’t be replacing on Saturday, however, is Dwaine Pretorius, the least internationally-experienced of a large touring cupboard of all-rounders.

The Lions player, 27, chose his sixth ODI appearance to be his most impressive thus far, and there was a strong case for arguing that he was the most incisive South African with both bat and ball on the day.

First he bowled an admirably disciplined full 10-over stint of his wicket-to-wicket, medium-fast fare for the concession of just 40 runs, and grabbed half of the wickets to fall (Dean Brownlie and Neil Broom).

It was Pretorius’s second genuinely eye-catching bowling performance in three ODIs, as it was only some two and a half weeks ago that he had grabbed figures of 7-2-19-3 against Sri Lanka at his familiar Wanderers.

But then his skills with the willow also came into play, at a time when the Proteas looked as though they might go down by a particularly clear-cut margin, partly due to the unusual failure of any of their frontline batsmen to kick on fully from promising starts.

Instead the Randfontein-born customer induced a discernible element of panic in the Black Caps’ ranks as he lashed a maiden half-century – just his second turn at the ODI crease – from the No 7 berth in the closing stages, mixing pure intelligence of shot selection with some spirited heaves for fours or sixes in an eventful 27-ball vigil.

Wayne Parnell, one of the all-rounders vying with Pretorius and others for a regular spot, now looks the likeliest sacrifice for Wellington if changes are indeed made to the combination; he continues to underwhelm despite his considerably superior experience at Proteas level.

Speaking of prolifically-capped players, middle-order strokeplayer JP Duminy is another just starting to recede worryingly again in “delivery” terms; he hasn’t played an innings of any real consequence for South Africa in more than a month.

Duminy was looking fairly threatening on 34 at Hagley Oval, when he frustratingly succumbed to an untimely stumping.

He is fortunate, arguably, that the current SA squad isn’t exactly loaded with alternative options in specialist batting – there is only the oft-maligned Farhaan Behardien wearing the reserve bib on that front.

*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing

Read more on:    proteas  |  dwaine pretorius  |  cricket


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