Comment: Rob Houwing, Sport24 chief writer
Cape Town – South Africa must restore Albie
Morkel to the mix at the Wanderers on Sunday for a better chance of ending the
one-day international series against Sri Lanka in style.
While there is never a guarantee of a
lower-order batsman of his swashbuckling nature coming off consistently, his
power hitting near the end of the innings – or at least the presence of someone
with similar credentials in that capacity -- was quite glaringly missed in the
Proteas’ first ever ODI defeat at Kimberley, to the revitalised Lankans, on
Yes, they might also have benefited, as the
tourists commendably chased down 300, from the presence of rested
strike-bowling factor Dale Steyn, albeit
that his form in the limited-overs arena has been a little less impressive of
late than it remains in the Test fold.
But where they really lost Friday’s match
on a flat, decent batting deck where the short ball screamed “hit me a long way”
was in the failure to end their own innings with the required flourish as Sri
Lanka gleefully bagged their opportunity to get off the series mark and pull it
back to 3-1 with just the Bullring to go.
de Villiers made the contentious decision to take first strike, at a venue
where history hugely favours the side batting second, but considering that it
was a dead-rubber game maybe there was some experimental element – the Proteas
have been commendably willing to do unorthodox things recently – in his
There is no harm, after all, in challenging
your troops to swim against the tide sometimes, in the longer-term good.
Nevertheless, South Africa will be keen to
restore “normal service” at the Wanderers; 4-1 against the World Cup runners-up
would look a lot more satisfying on paper than 3-2, especially if they pull off
that outcome knowing that ace batsmen Jacques Kallis and Hashim Amla missed the
lion’s share of the action.
And a key to that Johannesburg quest could
well be the older Morkel brother returning to his rightful No 7 slot in the
I believe we saw at the De Beers Diamond
Oval the relative folly of the Proteas’ positions seven, eight and nine being
over-stocked by bowling all-rounders rather than containing at least one,
Morkel, whose stronger suit is in the batting department.
Between Wayne Parnell, Robin Peterson and
Vernon Philander, they faced 53 deliveries at the back-end of the innings and
could only muster three boundaries between them.
So instead of South Africa getting to the
325 minimum requirement they had seemingly been set up for by the sizzling De
Villiers and significantly improved Graeme Smith – and at one stage 350 looked
very much on – they had to settle for a fraction beneath the 300-mark which
gave the Lankans a healthy sniff they then translated into a satisfying meal.
Smith’s virtually run-a-ball 68 was not
without ongoing imperfection by the big left-hander, but it was nevertheless
gratifying for those who still hugely respect the man to see him warmly
applauded by the Kimberley crowd as he went past his half-century.
His detractors, of course, will doubtless
remind that one solid knock does not suddenly guarantee your ODI longevity, and
also that “Biff’s” return to good form still ended up being in a losing cause!
But he had done his own duty in providing
the Proteas with the rollicking start they needed on the day, and had Morkel
been able to contribute in the late period when a known long-ball “clubber” was
sorely lacking, the hosts might well have won the match.
The Titans star had not done a lot wrong in
the series ahead of his benching, for whatever reason: he struck a quick-fire
25 at Paarl and then had two short, not-out innings at East London and
His bowling contribution, limited though it
has been, looks respectable enough as well: Morkel has only conceded 40 runs in
10 overs in the series although he sports nothing in the wickets column yet.
There should also be a belated outing in
Johannesburg for Johan Botha, the Warriors off-spinner who has patiently
awaited a gallop in the series after returning from the Big Bash in Australia.
Incumbent main spinner Peterson took some stick
in Kimberley, going for almost eight runs an over in a necessarily curtailed
stint of six overs.
At least, on the seam bowling front,
Lonwabo Tsotsobe continued his rise and rise: in grabbing three wickets with a
fine mix of skills on the unfavourable pitch he became the fastest South
African to 50 scalps in ODIs (in his 27th appearance).
our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing