Cape Town – St George’s Park hardly strikes you as the ideal
place for South Africa to extend their stay on “life support” during the six-match,
one-day international series against India.
Yes, there was a noticeable crashing to earth of the Indian
wrist spinners, Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav, in Saturday’s five-wicket
reverse to the Proteas at the Wanderers that kept the series alive at 3-1 in
the visitors’ favour and two to play.
But considering their earlier, profound mastery of the South
African batsmen over the course of games one to three, Chahal and Yadav will be
expected to roar back into their own in Port Elizabeth on Tuesday (13:00
The Friendly City traditionally serves up slow, turning and
often abrasive surfaces so, despite the welcome signs of resurgence from the
Proteas in the curtailed Johannesburg fixture, India will warrant “favourites”
status for clinching a maiden ODI series triumph on our soil at St George’s
They were going great guns at the Bullring before an
untimely interruption to their innings after taking first strike there, and the
significant reduction in overs meant that previously fragile SA were left
hunting more of a Twenty20 type of total – even if they reached it in
hearteningly clinical, power-striking fashion.
Both Chahal and Yadav were suddenly subjected to some major
“tap” as various Proteas batsmen opted for attack as the best form of defence
against their wiles, with productive consequences.
Expect the St George’s Park strip to be less true than the
Highveld one, presenting a renewed chance for the pair to examine the Proteas’ technical
competence and reading of deliveries.
That said, the host nation will need to get their own
bowling ducks in a fitting row for PE, almost certainly meaning at least one
vacancy will have to be created, from their Wanderers winning XI, for a
specialist spinner of their own.
They went all-pace, as far as frontline bowling was
concerned, on Saturday, and it more or less paid off, with JP Duminy chipping
in four additional overs of his part-time off-spin.
But even if Duminy effectively gives you about half or more
of a slow bowler’s allotment at St George’s Park, expect the Proteas to also
acknowledge the need for someone capable of bowling an additional, full quota
of 10 overs of slow fare.
Under the circumstances, isn’t it perhaps time for a renewed
show of confidence in Tabraiz Shamsi for the job, rather than the already-known
qualities of almost 39-year-old Imran Tahir?
Even if Tahir should still be firmly in the plans, you would
think, for CWC 2019 in England, Shamsi is roughly 11 years younger – he turns 28
in a few days’ time – and naturally on that basis more of a long-term option.
The left-arm chinaman exponent has a curtailed tally of six
prior ODI caps thus far, and just one notably short-lived appearance in the
second clash of the current series.
Shamsi bowled only three overs at SuperSport Park that day, having
been given the well-nigh impossible task (along with the rest of the attack) of
trying to defend a pathetic SA total of 118, and deserves a fresh stab in an
environment that should suit him better.
St George’s Park is the very venue where he boasts his best
analysis in ODIs: 3/36 from a full stint in the triumph over Australia last
Among his scalps was the prize one of Aussie captain and
batting kingpin Steve Smith.
Should Shamsi (or Tahir, or even both) be summoned for
Tuesday’s must-win clash, the Proteas brains trust will have to mull over which
fast bowler to leave out.
A bit like veteran Morne Morkel was rested at Newlands, the
time may well have come – although they will be reluctant to withdraw one of
the major aces up their sleeve – to give Kagiso Rabada a rotational break.
Rabada has seen busy action for several weeks, including the
whole Test series against the Indians, and then all four ODIs thus far, too.
It is essential that he not be over-used, given the massive
need for his premium services in the looming, four-Test headline series against
the Baggy Greens, which begins on March 1.
Possible Proteas team
for Tuesday: Hashim Amla, Aiden Markram (capt), JP Duminy, AB de Villiers,
David Miller, Heinrich Klaasen, Chris Morris, Andile Phehlukwayo, Morne Morkel,
Lungi Ngidi (or Kagiso Rabada), Tabraiz Shamsi.
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