Proteas: Rilee to No 4 … surely?

2016-10-03 17:55
Rilee Rossouw (Gallo)
Rilee Rossouw (Gallo)

Cape Town – Anything’s possible after his shock omission for the second one-day international against Australia, but it seems reasonably safe to assume common sense will prevail and South Africa will restore kingpin top-order batsman Hashim Amla to their line-up on Wednesday.

That is when they will strike for an early series kill against the tourists in the third clash at Kingsmead (13:30 start).

For that reason alone, as if any other were really needed, Amla seems a perfect infusion to cash in even more brutally on Australian bowling weakness which doesn’t look likely, frankly, to properly resolve itself before the series has run its five-game course.

As the series shifts to the coast, the great right-hander’s knowledge of local conditions from his Dolphins tenure and broader Durban upbringing would come in additionally handy.

The selectors will believe they have banked some longer-term value out of seeing the Proteas thump the old enemies twice in a row on the Highveld while without the services of two seasoned batting heavyweights in Amla and AB de Villiers.

But now, with Amla presumably well over the virus that saw him miss the SuperSport Park opener in a forced manner, they must surely acknowledge that he more than warrants a return to the XI.

The obvious solution, I would quite fervently recommend, is for in-form Rilee Rossouw, who comes off successive scores of 63 (Centurion) and 75 (Johannesburg) as Quinton de Kock’s opening partner, to shift to No 4 to facilitate Amla restoring his own hugely proven, complementary alliance with De Kock up front.

Amla just seems an assuring presence technically at the outset of the SA innings, especially in more seaming conditions that may come into play at Kingsmead, St George’s Park and then Newlands.

By reuniting the Amla-De Kock firm you also, of course, return a “right and left” element to the opening pair, which is a good way to help unsettle opposition bowlers as quickly as possible because of the line adjustments involved.

Rossouw, such a clean slugger of the ball when the mood grabs him, is certainly always an option as an opener, but he is just as capable, given his natural attacking instincts, of either amassing a bulky innings a couple of notches down or even acting as a muscular “finisher” when the situation may demand it.

He has proved before that he can prosper at four: his highest score from his 33 ODIs remains the 132 he blasted from that spot against West Indies at SuperSport Park in January 2015, a dizzying effort off 98 deliveries including as many as eight sixes.

Confirmation, perhaps, of his flexibility in the order came through a weekend tweet from SABC commentator and former Proteas opener Alviro Petersen (@AlviroPetersen): “Rilee Rossouw should never be left out of SA’s one-day team … bats in any position!”

The tall left-hander is certainly booming statistically in ODIs, especially when you consider that four of his first six innings in the arena were ducks – he is currently averaging 35.53 with a brilliant strike rate of 94.

If Rossouw goes to No 4, it also allows JP Duminy, another player fast recapturing some welcome mojo, to shift one rung down the ladder to more suitable habitat for him, I feel, at five.

The casualty to accommodate Amla on Wednesday, then, would have to come from one of Farhaan Behardien or David Miller, and it is not as though either has looked remotely indispensable in recent times.

Interestingly, SA Test legend Graeme Pollock, while suggesting Behardien should be sacrificed to make way for Amla, stated in a column for on Monday that he wished for the bearded veteran instead to be asked to bat at No 3, leaving the De Kock-Rossouw partnership undisturbed.

Whichever tactic the Proteas choose to employ on that front, the vast majority of local observers will simply be relieved to see Amla back in the team for his 138th ODI on Wednesday.

Er, assuming that’s what happens …

*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing

Read more on:    proteas  |  rilee rossouw  |  cricket

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