A first change com­ing up for Proteas

The Star Early Edition - - SPORT -

SOUTH Africa is lean­ing closer and closer to choos­ing a five-man at­tack – in­clud­ing four seam­ers – for the sec­ond Test against Eng­land start­ing at Trent Bridge to­mor­row, thereby break­ing with a struc­ture that has served the team very well in the last five years.

Since Gary Kirsten’s time as coach, South Africa have pre­ferred us­ing seven bats­men and four bowlers. But need­ing to win the sec­ond Test, hav­ing ca­pit­u­lated so badly at Lord’s, they are look­ing to change what’s worked well for them.

Iron­i­cally, it was the bat­ting that failed in the first Test and in or­der to in­clude the four seam­ers for the Trent Bridge Test, it’s a bats­man that’s likely to fall out. In this case it would be The­u­nis de Bruyn, which would be un­for­tu­nate given how well he played in the first in­nings at Lord’s.

Faf du Plessis hinted at util­is­ing four seam­ers af­ter the first Test, but it was felt the se­lec­tors would drop left-arm spin­ner Ke­shav Ma­haraj. That is some­thing the cap­tain is re­luc­tant to do though, so a bats­man it may be with Chris Mor­ris com­ing into the start­ing team, along with Duanne Olivier, who’ll re­place the sus­pended Kag­iso Rabada.

“All de­pends on con­di­tions ... Lord’s turned square on day 4, a sim­i­lar thing may hap­pen here,” re­marked Morne Morkel. “It’s al­ways nice to have the ex­tra part­ner who can bowl seam. If that’s not the case, then as three sean­ers we need to step up.”

Du Plessis will slot in for JP Du­miny, whose only role at train­ing yes­ter­day was to of­fer throw­downs to his team­mates.

The pitch is un­der­stood to still have a fair amount of mois­ture in it and so will as­sist swing bowl­ing on the first day. It is ex­pected to aide the spin­ners on day four and five and given how the South Africans suc­cumbed to spin at Lord’s, Eng­land cer­tainly wouldn’t mind see­ing that.

But the pres­sure the tourists can ex­ert over a sus­tained pe­riod on Eng­land’s bats­men with four seam­ers is an el­e­ment that does war­rant con­sid­er­a­tion. Ver­non Phi­lan­der has looked stronger at train­ing than was the case at Lord’s but there is still a sense that his third spell in a day is not as strong as his first.

Morkel men­tioned an im­por­tant point about how much more Rabada’s ab­sence will hurt the team, other than just his in­nate bril­liance.

“We are go­ing to miss KG, he has the abil­ity to bowl long spells, fast and with a lot of en­ergy.”

Hav­ing both Mor­ris and Olivier on the field will give Du Plessis that ex­tra op­tion and en­sure they are all rel­a­tively fresh for later in the day.

That of course means the bats­men have to do their jobs a whole lot bet­ter. Quin­ton de Kock will slot in at No 6, Phi­lan­der and Mor­ris at 7 and 8, re­spec­tively, and there will be a lot more re­spon­si­bil­ity placed on the bats­men’s shoul­ders, even as some of them haven’t been as con­sis­tent as they’d want.

The se­lec­tors must hope that by shrink­ing the bat­ting or­der from seven to six front­lin­ers it will help to fo­cus their minds a lit­tle more - they can’t ex­pect to be bailed out by the next man in.

Morkel in­sisted that de­spite the bowlers seem­ingly hav­ing got­ten the team out of trou­ble in a num­ber of in­stances in re­cent times, that was no sense of an “us ver­sus them” split hap­pen­ing in the squad be­tween bats­men and bowlers. “We are all in this to­gether,” he re­marked.

As a fur­ther il­lus­tra­tion that each player had to de­mand im­prove­ment of them­selves, Morkel spoke openly about the prob­lems he’s had with no-balls. He’s picked up more wick­ets off no-balls, 13, than any­one else: “Some­body needs to hold one record,” he quipped. “It’s un­ac­cept­able, it’s con­trol­lable. I need a lot of rhythm and for me tim­ing is cru­cial. I feel the more I bowl in a Test match, the bet­ter my tim­ing, the bet­ter I feel at the crease.”

Morkel dis­missed Ben Stokes off a no-ball at Lord’s. “It’s just a rush of blood to the head, want­ing to cre­ate some­thing with a softer, older ball. It’s some­thing we will work on to get bet­ter at ... that wasn’t the first no-ball I’ve bowled ... it’s not go­ing to end my ca­reer.”

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