Proteas bowl­ing ‘flawed’

Lesotho Times - - Sport -

CAPE TOWN — If dan­ger signs can flicker against a rel­a­tive min­now, then per­haps South Africa would be wise to ad­dress their short­com­ings for the loom­ing en­counter with a co-su­per­power.

The risky lack of depth to their bowl­ing re­sources was high­lighted once again as they made heavy weather of sub­du­ing gutsy neigh­bours Zim­babwe in a World Cup Pool B opener for both sides at Hamil­ton on Sun­day.

Se­nior player Dale Steyn sport­ingly tweeted (@Dalesteyn62) af­ter­wards: “Well played by our African neigh­bours ... tough bug­gers!”

In the end the Proteas pre­vailed by 62 runs, but there were anx­ious mo­ments along the way for them, first at the crease and then in the field.

It may be no bad thing: they have some­times in the past been guilty of steam­ing along like a Ja­panese bul­let train in early group play at World Cups, only to sub­side when it is most in­op­por­tune to­ward the busi­ness end.

At least they will be well aware there are ar­eas to brush up on sig­nif­i­cantly for next Sun­day’s meet­ing with the more heavy­weight In­dia at Mel­bourne Cricket Ground (05:30 SA time).

The bat­ting wob­ble is ar­guably of much less con­cern: it is ex­tremely rare these days for the “big two”, AB de Vil­liers and Hashim Amla, to com­pile only 36 runs be­tween them in a one-day in­ter­na­tional, and the very fact that the Proteas could re­cover from the col­lec­tive top-or­der peril of 83 for four to to­tal 339 with­out fur­ther loss is a sign of grow­ing ma­tu­rity and com­po­sure in that depart­ment.

Those qual­i­ties were ev­i­dent in abun­dance from re­spec­tive cen­tu­ri­ons David Miller and JP Du­miny, who have got their per­sonal tour­na­ments off with a deaf­en­ing bang.

Their un­bro­ken fifth-wicket stand of 256 in only 29.4 overs be­comes the third high­est for any wicket at a World Cup, eclipsed only by In­dia’s Gan­guly-dravid al­liance of 318 (for In­dia v Sri Lanka, sec­ond wicket, Taun­ton 1999) and the Lankans’ own 282 (Tha­ranga-dil­shan, first wicket, Pallekele 2011) against the very Zim­bab­weans who have taken re­newed stick from a dif­fer­ent pair four years on.

The 25-year-old Miller is now blos­som­ing mas­sively in the 50-overs for­mat, rev­el­ling in a higher post­ing in the or­der and hav­ing reg­is­tered his first two ODI cen­turies (both un­beaten) in his 62nd and 64th ap­pear­ance re­spec­tively – his av­er­age is sud­denly nos­ing so much closer to the 40-mark at 38.18.

He is com­bin­ing his trade­mark clean, long hit­ting – he threat­ened the walls both of a fu­neral par­lour and dough­nut hut among other struc­tures on Sun­day -- with ever-tight­en­ing tech­nique and in­tel­li­gence in bats­man­ship.

Du­miny, mean­while, has al­ready boasted those at­tributes for some time, and this was merely fur­ther ev­i­dence of his will­ing­ness to take charge of a sit­u­a­tion when the chips are down; the pair ro­tated strike beau­ti­fully in their pro­duc­tive stint to­gether.

But if the Proteas have some stub­born snags in their makeup, they come to the fore more painfully on the bowl­ing front, where the pres­ence of Farhaan Be­har­dien as the fourth seam op­tion with his dib­bly-dob­bly fare still serves up more ques­tion marks than ticks.

He wasn’t too glar­ingly the worst per­former in an in­con­sis­tent over­all show­ing by the SA at­tack, in fair­ness, as even the highly-touted Steyn was some way off his A-game against Zim­babwe at Sed­don Park and should pre­fer a much pacier track – hope­fully – at the MCG.

But if Be­har­dien is go­ing to leak 40 runs in five overs against a side as mod­er­ate as Zim­babwe in slower, grip­ping con­di­tions, it doesn’t seem to bode well for how the In­dian stroke­play­ers may tar­get him across the Tas­man in Aus­tralia.

There are al­ready the an­tic­i­pated signs that this will be an­other dif­fi­cult tour­na­ment for the most ac­com­plished and well-rounded of bowl­ing line-ups, never mind ones fea­tur­ing es­sen­tially part­time and thus more vul­ner­a­ble el­e­ments like Be­har­dien.

Con­cerns about the po­ten­tial weak­en­ing on paper of the Proteas’ tail, if they were to sac­ri­fice him for Wayne Par­nell or Kyle Ab­bott, are un­der­stand­able.

But per­haps Ver­non Phi­lan­der’s abil­ity to be at least re­silient at the crease are un­der­es­ti­mated by man­age­ment and if, say, he and Par­nell were the seven and eight it wouldn’t be the worst sit­u­a­tion in the world.

Be­sides, if any­thing South Africa’s trum­peted front­line bats­men are likely only to be bet­ter col­lec­tively next time out af­ter the early woes ex­pe­ri­enced against the Zim­bab­weans, and they may get away with field­ing a fluffy tail against an In­dian at­tack which is that team’s weaker suit than its own bat­ting.

In­dia saw off fierce ri­vals Pak­istan more con­vinc­ingly on paper on Sun­day than the Proteas sub­dued Zim­babwe; there can be no room for any weak links in De Vil­liers’s side next week­end.

“Back to the draw­ing board” is prob­a­bly too dra­matic a state­ment, but there are a few holes in the SA fence yet to close up ... Up­com­ing fix­tures 20 Feb: New Zealand v Eng­land 21 Feb: Pak­istan v West Indies, Aus­tralia v Bangladesh. 22 Feb: Afghanistan v Sri Lanka, In­dia v South Africa. — Sport24

David Miller (left) and JP Du­miny res­cued the Proteas against Zim­babwe on Sun­day.

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