Marchant’s endless pace is what separates him from the boys
NOT for the first time here, the Proteas’ Ritz Carlton chauffeur service had to pull into Bengaluru International Airport for a special pick-up. Not for the first time either, said pick-up had to request for extra legroom at the back because he wasn’t regular size.
South Africa’s pace reserves are being stretched a fair bit in India, which is all down to Dale Steyn’s groin being overstretched back in Mohali a fortnight ago.
After Kyle Abbott jetted in, on the eve of the second Test, Marchant de Lange has now joined the squad, as Steyn continues his rehabilitation.
Steyn continued to try and nudge his body back to full health yesterday at the team’s optional practice. A few balls here, and a few jogs there. It’s all going slowly, too slowly for the management team to risk another breakdown.
After Vernon Philander’s random injury during a training warm-up last week, you just never know what may occur between now and the toss in Nagpur.
“At the moment, we only have three fit seamers in Morné Morkel, Kagiso Rabada and Kyle Abbott, so with Dale still struggling with a groin injury, we decided to bring Marchant in as cover, in case one of the three breaks down,” Proteas coach Russell Domingo said yesterday.
De Lange was the next in line for the Proteas pace attack a few years ago, but a combination of injury and an inconsistent radar saw him move down the pecking order. But as Domingo explained yesterday, the 25-year-old has never lost that one thing that separates the men from the boys when it comes to top-level cricket.
“Marchant’s biggest strength is pace. If the ball does start to reverse-swing, his pace through the air brings him into the contest,” the coach said.
“Even though his performances back home have been a bit inconsistent, we do know that, as an impact player, he is a guy that can turn the game with a good spell. Guys that can bowl at 150km per hour will always be good value.”
It’s not an overstatement; Steyn has always maintained that pace through the air is priceless in India, and even the locals have gone for the occasionally erratic Varun Aaron over the more streamlined Umesh Yadav, or the consistent Bhuvneshwar Kumar, because Aaron can get the speed-gun up to the upper 140s when he is really in a mischievous mood.
And when he gets it right, it works a treat. The local channels are still playing replays of his dismissal of Proteas skipper Hashim Amla.
It’s one thing for the likes of Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja to take a pile of wickets, what with conditions and South African hesitation playing into their hands. It is quite another thing, how- ever, when an electric burst from Aaron sends a world-class batsmen’s off-stump cartwheeling towards the slip cordon.
It’s primal, and comes at such a pretty penny in India that it is well worth having in one’s back pocket. Having rarely produced out- and- out speedsters, India’s brains trust is rather excited about this new dimension to their arsenal.
The tourists, too, are looking at finding any which way to penetrate the Indian batting card. By the time things kick off at the Vidarbha Cricket Association Stadium on Wednesday, they have to hit India with something new, something unexpected, if they are to find a way back into the series.
it before,” Domingo said. “We know that we are still in the contest with two matches to play, and the wickets are definitely going to produce results.
“We are 1-0 down, so we have every chance of turning it around in Nagpur. We are aware that we have to play better cricket with bat and with ball, but we are hopeful that we can rectify that.”
Rectify the Proteas must, if they are to rescue a series that looked like getting out of hand at the end of the first day in Bangalore. As it was, that first day was to be the last day, which means there is still much to be gained – or lost - in Nagpur.
For all the rain and barrenness of the last week, the series is still very much alive.
MARCHANT DE LANGE: ‘A guy that can turn a game’