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Ken Borland

Proteas ripped amidships by withdrawals torpedoes 2

Posted on April 10, 2021 by Ken

Temba Bavuma’s hopes of starting his Proteas captaincy tenure with a series win were scuttled like a ship being hit amidships by multiple torpedoes when six of his first-choice starting XI were unavailable for the deciding match at Centurion, but it is always good to see what the fringe players can do out in the middle.

Unfortunately, South Africa’s depth would appear to be of rather middling quality at the moment. Especially in the pace bowling department.

Kagiso Rabada was classy as ever and although he only took a couple of wickets, his accuracy was such that his economy rate of 4.70 was the best for any seamer in the series. Lungi Ngidi had a poor series, but he has produced the goods many times before in white-ball cricket, so it should just be considered an aberration.

Anrich Nortje was a revelation, bowling with tremendous aggression and control, and the way he rips batsmen out in the middle overs is crucial for the Proteas. Unfortunately there does not seem to be a ready-made replacement for him yet in what bowling coach Charl Langeveldt described as the “enforcer” role.

Andile Phehlukwayo was relied on to bowl at the death, with mixed success. He did take five wickets, but finished as only a little bit less expensive than Ngidi; the all-rounder bowled some excellent overs, but there were some rubbish ones as well.

One big positive in terms of the attack, though, is that Keshav Maharaj is hot on the heels of Tabraiz Shamsi as the first-choice spinner. Slow left-arm orthodox may not be as sexy as Shamsi’s mystical wrist-spin, but Maharaj showed in his outstanding performance in the third ODI that tremendous accuracy allied with teasing flight and changes of pace make him a very effective limited-overs bowler as well.

The moment Bavuma probably regrets most in the series was when he called on Jon-Jon Smuts to bowl the penultimate over in the Centurion decider. The left-arm spinner had gone well up to that point, conceding just 42 runs in his seven overs, but Hasan Ali deposited him on the banks at SuperSport Park four times in an over that cost 25 and took Pakistan past 300 and enough for victory.

Smuts is the sort of gutsy cricketer that typifies the Eastern Cape’s make-a-plan, find-a-way attitude, and he is most certainly more than the sum of all his talents. He has done well for the Proteas in ODI cricket, averaging 45 with the bat and having an economy rate of 5.46 with the ball. But the time has probably come to call on George Linde, the left-arm spinner and hard-hitting batsman who has done so well for the Cape Cobras, and for South Africa whenever he has had the opportunity.

Coach Mark Boucher also spoke about the need for another left-handed batsman in the batting line-up, and Linde certainly fits the bill.

The batting as a whole looks in better shape and the middle-order is surely settled now with Bavuma steering the ship at three, along with Rassie van der Dussen at four and then David Miller and Kyle Verreynne in the finishing roles.

Heinrich Klaasen has not really set the world alight since being Player of the Series against Australia last year, and Verreynne, with two half-centuries and 163 runs in his four innings, deserves an extended chance now, having shown he has the temperament for international cricket.

Janneman Malan is another of the replacement batsmen who should keep his place. Aiden Markram has just not been able to capitalise on how damn good he has looked at the crease and an average of 25.33 for the series pretty much sums up his ODI career thus far. Malan, meanwhile, has put up the numbers – an average of 74 and a strike-rate of 89 in his four ODI innings – and those are figures that should not be ignored.

The other big positive from a batting point of view was the return to form of Phehlukwayo. His innings of 29 and 54 at Centurion were not enough to secure victory for the Proteas, but they were exactly the sort of contributions the team are looking for from their all-rounder.

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