South Africa’s rise to the No1 ranking has been built to a large extent on the strike-bowling brilliance of Dale Steyn, Morné Morkel and Vernon Philander, but when one of the trio is injured or not bowling to full capacity, their attack does not look totally convincing.
Rory Kleinveldt has risen up the queue to become the next paceman in line and has played in both Brisbane and Adelaide. But he looked innocuous, save for his three-wicket burst on the third afternoon of the second Test.
Ryan McLaren, meanwhile, could get the chance to start his international career afresh in Perth after being flown over as bowling all-rounder cover for both Jacques Kallis and Philander.
But while this Test generation is dominated by a superb batting line-up and the Steyn/Morkel/Philander bowling trio, these things are cyclical, and fans will await the birth of the next generation of fast bowlers.
So far, the next generation has thrown up Marchant de Lange, who claimed 7/81 against Sri Lanka on his debut in Durban last December.
But seven months later, the Titans youngster developed a stress fracture of the lower back and has been in cotton wool ever since.
De Lange will not be fit to play in the two Tests against New Zealand in January but Vincent Barnes, the national selector and former Proteas bowling coach, who is taking care of the 22-year-old’s rehabilitation, is still pleased with his progress.
“I’ve been tasked with overseeing his recovery from what was quite a serious injury, and it’s a slow process. We’ve mapped it out with the Titans and they send me video clips of every training session he does and a weekly report from the physio.
“It’s going slowly but the big positive is that we’re doing it properly and he’s not being rushed. Marchant is now bowling pain-free off a short run-up and we’re working towards him playing again in late December. But he definitely won’t be ready for the Tests against New Zealand,” Barnes said on Tuesday.
While everyone will be hoping De Lange’s return is not an anticlimax, there is another, more established bowler plotting his own return in Durban.
Lonwabo Tsotsobe missed the tour to the Antipodes because his form, and reportedly his attitude, were at odds with what was required. But Dolphins coach Lance Klusener on Tuesday praised his work ethic with his new franchise team.
“Lopsy has been extremely eager to get stuck in and while I’m really happy with his effort, I’m just sad that he hasn’t had the wickets to show for how hard he’s been training. He’s done his job really well for us, he’s just been unlucky and I’m sure wickets are just around the corner for him,” Klusener said.
Since South Africa’s return from the grim days of apartheid, their fast bowling stocks have been the envy of many — current bowling coach Allan Donald leading the way for the likes of Klusener, Shaun Pollock, Makhaya Ntini and now Steyn and Morkel.
Barnes believes newcomers such as Kleinveldt, Chris Morris and Hardus Viljoen have the potential to swell that list.
“We need to give Rory time, and the important thing is he’s getting better, not worse. And Chris and Hardus have both been quite impressive and both have good pace,” Barnes said.
And talented young fast bowlers such as Beuran Hendricks, Marcello Piedt, Graham Hume and Duanne Olivier have the potential to add their names to that list as well.