Proteas: Promotion on hold for ‘bench’?

2018-07-31 17:11
Aiden Markram (Gallo)

Cape Town – The temptation to shake the selection bag will be … well, thereabouts. But crucially, perhaps, not actually “there”.

It is difficult, especially from afar, to try to read the minds of Proteas head coach Ottis Gibson and his closest aides.

But sticking largely to a winning formula may just eclipse (it so often does in these circumstances) any thoughts of significantly altering the personnel for experimentation purposes for Wednesday’s second one-day international against Sri Lanka in Dambulla.

South Africa’s strategists could be forgiven for leaning toward continuity, considering the tonic that the five-wicket triumph in game one of the five-match series was – coming in the wake of the earlier Test series humiliation featuring some of the same, cross-over personnel.

The venue will be the same, but the atmosphere slightly different as it is a day-night affair on this occasion (11:00 start, SA time).

With next year’s World Cup in England in mind, the Proteas have already indicated quite clearly that there will be plenty of “fiddling” with combinations over the next few months.

But with the opportunity to get within a whisker of securing the series should they prevail again for a 2-0 lead, widespread changes to the XI appear unlikely at this point.

After all, a dead-rubber match or two -- if that ideal can be realised by the tourists -- would be the perfect environment to blood a couple of their more rookie, presently peripheral members of the 15-strong party.

Heinrich Klaasen, who had shown clean-striking promise in the heavy home series reverse to India last summer, has reportedly been nursing a groin niggle, but if he is ready for action he may be the only tweak to the combination, finding a place somewhere in the front six.

Unless the pitch looks especially receptive to turn – the first one was surprisingly, agreeably more “South African” in nature – first-choice Test spinner Keshav Maharaj will perhaps simply remain in feet-up mode for the moment after his marathon, fatiguing exploits in the five-dayers, and Tabraiz Shamsi left to build on his four-wicket success in the first ODI.

The other two peripheral figures right now are fast bowler Junior Dala and opening batsman Reeza Hendricks, both of whom have already tasted Twenty20 international duty for the country but not yet the rigours of ODIs.

All of JP Duminy (in particular), Faf du Plessis and Quinton de Kock of the staple, frontline batsmen got a morale-lifting head of steam at the crease in the first clash, so their presences seem close to assured for the immediate follow-up -- “form” batsmen haven’t exactly fallen from the trees for the Proteas on the broader tour thus far.

Now it is just about getting a similar hike in productivity out of Hashim Amla, Aiden Markram and David Miller.

The middle-named player is a special concern, perhaps: the young Titans stroke-player already sports three ducks from all matches on the tour and a less than heady top score of 19 in the Galle Test.

Markram is struggling to pick the premier Sri Lankan spinners and Gibson and company will be aware of the fine balance involved in hoping he comes good, against the counter-threat of him only getting into a deeper rut and incurring mental scarring of sorts.

Considering the back problem experienced by blue-chip strike bowler Kagiso Rabada ahead of the tour, the Proteas management must also be on full alert for any new signs of over-bowling him.

But Rabada clearly loved operating on the suddenly responsive strip laid out in the first ODI, sending down a few true snorters en route to his analysis of four for 41, and it would probably require a brave individual to tell him he was going to be tethered for the second fixture.

After all, he will be winning his 50th cap if he turns out in this one.

A little later in the series, though, he will almost certainly need to be given a “rotational” rest or two with longer-term goals in mind.

Recent statistical history is an ally to the Proteas as they seek to triumph at Rangiri Dambulla International Stadium for a second time in four days.

That is because Sri Lanka have now lost six completed ODIs on the trot at the venue … since their last victory back in 2014, these have come against Australia (twice), Pakistan, Bangladesh, India and then SA last Sunday.

There is one no-result in between.

The weather outlook is reasonably promising, based on Tuesday’s forecasts, with a small chance only of a rogue, light shower during the match.

*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing

Read more on:    proteas  |  aiden markram  |  cricket


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