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Ken Borland

No panic likely, but Duminy & Peterson in the spotlight

Posted on February 17, 2014 by Ken

Panicky wholesale changes to the South African team are not likely to be considered ahead of the second Test against Australia starting in Port Elizabeth on Thursday, but JP Duminy and Robin Peterson will be in the spotlight.

South Africa were crushed by 281 runs in the first Test at Centurion yesterday, which was only fair given how poorly they batted, bowled and fielded, and how superbly Mitchell Johnson bowled and the likes of Shaun Marsh, Steven Smith, David Warner and Alex Doolan batted.

Duminy scored 25 and 10 in the Test and, in both innings, batted for over an hour. In the first innings he was looking good, had seen off Johnson but then threw away his wicket holing out to spinner Nathan Lyon, and in the second innings he fell to a freakish catch at short-leg by Doolan.

But Duminy has underperformed for a while, scoring just 77 runs in his last seven innings and the under-pressure selectors may feel change has to come in the number six position.

South Africa’s spin bowling stocks are often the subject of despairing, even furious letters in the pages of this newspaper, and it will be difficult for the selectors to solve this long-standing problem.

Peterson was selected on the basis of being the most accurate, reliable spinner, someone who can hold up an end. But the orthodox left-armer went for 136 runs in 34 overs and was easily milked by the Australian batsmen. He did claim three wickets, but generally looked entirely unthreatening.

Imran Tahir remains the best wicket-taking spinner in the country, but we all know what happened to him the last time he was up against the Australians.

Warriors off-spinner Simon Harmer is next in line, but we should be cautious before throwing an untried 25-year-old into action against a team that plays spin bowling so well.

South Africa’s attack looked ineffectual across the board, mostly due to bad strategy, but the selectors will certainly consider employing an all-pace attack and bringing in left-armer Wayne Parnell on his home ground, to add something different.

That would probably save Duminy, who would then be the spinner in the team, although his probable replacement, Dean Elgar, bowls slow left-arm too.

Alviro Petersen could be under pressure at the top of the order, given how insecure he looked at Centurion, but dropping him would be harsh considering he made consecutive half-centuries in the two Tests against India before the massacre by Australia.

Although Ryan McLaren did not make a telling contribution in the Test, he performed his role as a holding bowler well and the huge defeat had its origins elsewhere.

Yesterday’s result will be a massive blow to the confidence of the South Africans, but it should be remembered that, barring the large hole left by Jacques Kallis, this is the same team that took them to number one and beat Australia on their home turf.

The talent and skill is there, it just needs to be activated by a change in mental approach by the South Africans. It was noticeable in the field how low the intensity was and it was poor decision-making that compounded their woes.

The decision to bowl first was an awful one, the bowling strategy was misguided and the batting against Johnson was laborious.



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