Smith says having wicket-taking options is key to victory
FORMER Proteas captain Graeme Smith has urged the national selectors to be “aggressive” and “avoid shying away from picking frontline bowlers” for today’s ICC Champions Trophy Group 2 opener against Sri Lanka at The Oval.
South Africa have included four all-rounders – Chris Morris, Wayne Parnell, Andile Phehlukwayo and Dwaine Pretorius – in their squad for the Champions Trophy and have recently played at least three in the majority of their ODI’s leading up to the tournament.
The thought process behind this tactical decision is to lengthen the batting order, which is set to be particularly crucial in this tournament with the lower-order expected to contribute significantly.
England certainly showed no team should be fearful of chasing down a 300-run target in the opening game at The Oval on Thursday with Joe Root’s unbeaten 133 taking the hosts past Bangladesh’s 305/6 with 16 balls to spare.
Due to the power of the opposition batting units, Smith therefore remains a strong believer that “wicket-taking options are key in limited overs cricket”.
“The big thing for South Africa is finding its edge. That aggressive streak comes out when it is playing at its best.
“The team needs to be aggressive with its selections to create that. I like the option of Parnell with the new ball,” Smith told www. icc.cricket.com.
“If Parnell can swing the ball and strike early, you then have guys like (Morne) Morkel to come on first change. I’ve always said that wicket-taking options are key in limited overs cricket.
“They allow you to control the game and control scoring as a captain. Having people that can knock the best players over gives you the best chance of restricting sides in the modern era.”
Smith does, though, believe South Africa’s team has greater balance now that Chris Morris has emerged as a genuine seam bowling all-rounder at No 7.
“Morris has earned the right to start. He has looked a good option with both bat and ball, and if the attack also then contains Kagiso Rabada, Wayne Parnell, Morne Morkel and Imran Tahir, there is a very attacking nature to it and I believe they possess the ability do some damage on most surfaces in England,” Smith said.
“Morris’s batting has really surprised me. The consistency with which he strikes the ball, something we saw in the IPL as well, is coupled with real composure under pressure.”
AB de Villiers has enjoyed a good run winning the toss lately with the Proteas ODI skipper electing to chase in all three matches against England leading up to the Champions Trophy.
In the first two ODI’s – at Headingley and Southampton’s Ageas Bowl – it backfired though as England posted over 330 to win both games and seal the series.
However, at Lord’s in the dead- rubber, South Africa’s attack found their rhythm to reduce the hosts to 20/6 within the first five overs.
Although England recovered through a half-century from Jonny Bairstow, it was still nowhere near enough as JP Duminy and De Villiers took South Africa home by seven wickets.
However, should captain De Villiers win the toss again today, Smith wants South Africa to put Sri Lanka under pressure through runs on the scoreboard.
“I’d think South Africa will be looking to bat first and put runs on the board. As much as The Oval is usually a tough ground to defend on, in my playing days I always felt your best chance of beating sub-continent teams was to get big runs in the first innings,” he explained.
“The Sri Lanka attack, even with Lasith Malinga, isn’t what it was when it contained the likes of Chaminda Vaas and Muttiah Muralidaran.
Sri Lanka’s strength will be trying to score runs first up and squeeze teams. It has always found a way to put you under pressure as a batting side, and again as a team – it always seems to find a way to be competitive at the big tournaments.”
● Rain yesterday came to the rescue of faltering Australia who were struggling in pursuit of a tough target set by New Zealand before their Champions Trophy Group A opener ended as a no result at Edgbaston, reports Reuters.
Kane Williams scored a fine century as New Zealand posted 291 all out in 45 overs, a total that at one stage looked like being much higher before seamer Josh Hazlewood recorded career-best figures of 6-52 for Australia.
Rain in the interval between innings meant Australia faced a reduced victory target of 235 from 33 overs, and they limped to 53 for three in nine overs before the heavens opened for a final time and the game was abandoned.
Hosts England top the pool with two points, New Zealand and Australia have one each, and Bangladesh are on zero.
Williamson’s 100 off 97 balls anchored a New Zealand innings that promised a lot more, but Australia found their groove in the closing overs to take the final seven wickets for 37 runs.
Williamson put on 77 with opener Luke Ronchi (65) and 99 for the third wicket with Ross Taylor (46) before he was run out the ball after reaching his ton.
New Zealand were 254/4 with 10.5 overs remaining and on course for a score well in excess of 300, but Hazlewood induced a number of false strokes from their batsmen.
Glenn Maxwell took four catches, one short of Jonty Rhodes’s one-day international record of five for a fielder.
Tight New Zealand bowling at the start of Australia’s reply built pressure.