Sri Lanka in SA

Proteas do need Albie’s oomph

2012-01-21 13:41
Albie Morkel (Gallo)
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 Friday night.

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.

 AB 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 thinking.

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 batting order.

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 Bloemfontein.

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).

*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing

Read more on:    sri lanka in sa  |  albie morkel


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