Marchant’s end­less pace is what sep­a­rates him from the boys

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - SPORT - LUNGANI ZAMA

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.

“We’ve done

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’

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