AB’S PERFECT MENU
ALTHOUGH for this series against Sri Lanka it has come about more by accident than design, AB de Villiers is happy to have three seam bowling all-rounders in the South Africa starting XI’s lower order, believing it provides the team with depth and versatility.
To date none of the trio of Chris Morris, Wayne Parnell or Andile Phehlukwayo has produced any earth-shattering performances in the opening two ODIs against Sri Lanka, but, by the same token, neither have they let the Proteas down.
De Villiers was non-committal yesterday about whether the triumvirate of seam bowling all-rounders would be a long-term option in the 50-over format for South Africa, citing the absence of a genuine strike bowler and the need to perhaps change the side depending on conditions and the opposition.
Barring any mishaps in the warm-ups this after noon, all three should start the third ODI against Sri Lanka at the Wanderers (1.30pm start), resplendent in pink.
For now it does look like a personnel structure that harks back to the days of Jacques Kallis, Shaun Pollock and Lance Klusener, when the South African ODI side were very successful and had a deep and dramatic run to the semi-final of the 1999 World Cup.
Where the trio differ from that illustrious group from 18 years ago, is that their prowess lies more with the ball, which is what De Villiers wants them to prioritise. “They have to do the business with the ball in hand and chip in with the bat. If you’re eight, nine and 10, you’re picked more as a bowler than a batter. Their primary skill is still with the ball in hand,” said South Africa’s ODI captain.
Morris and Par nell have greater impact with the ball. Parnell, utilising the new ball in combination with Kagiso Rabada, has picked up five wickets with an economy rate of 5.12, while Morris has provided good control after the new ball, claiming three wickets with an economy rate of just 3.61.
Only Morris has had a decent opportunity with the bat, smash- ing 26 off 20 balls in Durban on Wednesday night. Of the three, Phehlukwayo has been the most disappointing with just one wicket and, while his economy rate is a respectable 4.72 an over, there’s a sense he’s not quite at his best. That may be because he’s not quite gotten over the groin injury which required surgery late last year. Before the T20s, he’d played one Sunfoil Series match for the Dolphins.
De Villiers hinted yesterday that perhaps having three seam bowling all-rounders was one too many, but given injuries to Dale Steyn, Morné Morkel and most recently Lungi Ngidi, it forced his and the selectors’ hand.
There are pros and cons, as De Villiers highlighted yesterday.
“It’s great to have guys there who can chip in with the bat, especially in the UK (where the ICC Champions Trophy will be played later this year). It’s worked for South Africa in the past.”
However, there is also scope to select a more multifaceted squad.
“It would be nice to have that versatility when we go to big tournaments, to have the option of playing the extra spinner, or all-rounder, pace bowlers… generally to have some back-up in all the departments.”
It’s clear South Africa are still tinkering with the squad with an eye on the Champions Trophy. Various elements are working well; the top three batsmen have been in good form, Imran Tahir has bowled superbly and, while Rabada hasn’t produced anything sensational, you know something big is just around the corner.
Getting that all-rounder position, or positions, sorted out will be a big part of the remaining one-day matches South Africa play here against Sri Lanka, then New Zealand and then against England prior to the tournament.