Proteas to show depth of players

2015-01-25 06:00

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Straightforward victories in the first three ODIs – and an unassailable series lead – have afforded South Africa the opportunity to experiment across the closing fixtures, starting with today’s encounter at St George’s Park, Port Elizabeth.

So it came as no surprise when national coach Russell Domingo announced that he had decided to rest Dale Steyn for the remainder of the ODI series against the West Indies.

Hashim Amla will also not play in today’s fourth match and AB de Villiers will miss the last match at SuperSport Park, Centurion, on Wednesday.

“We want to play everybody that is in the squad so we will use these next two games as an opportunity for some of the fringe players to stake a claim and to put in some performances for us,” explained Domingo this week.

The chance to rest key players and make wholesale changes in personnel must be balanced by the need to complete the series on a high – and secure momentum ahead of next month’s ICC World Cup in Australia and New Zealand.

The Proteas also don’t want to peak too soon.

Aaron Phangiso, Wayne Parnell, Morné van Wyk and Kyle Abbott have watched from the sidelines as the first-choice ranks punished a West Indian unit unable to successfully bridge the gulf between Twenty20 International and ODI cricket.

Now is the time for the quartet to get in on the action.

Amla deserves a break, which would allow Van Wyk to open the batting, and De Villiers will have to relinquish wicketkeeping duties.

De Villiers, hampered by ongoing back problems, is a begrudging wicketkeeper at best these days. His role in all formats is now as a specialist batsman, evident from Sunday’s world record-breaking century at the Wanderers stadium.

Granted, the Johannesburg pitch was an absolute batting belter, while the opposition attack was weak and uninspired – but the 149 runs off 44 deliveries with 16 sixes feat was awesome nonetheless. No man will soon reach three figures in a mere 31 deliveries, despite Pakistan big hitter Shahid Afridi’s recent insistence he’ll eventually reclaim the record.

Meanwhile, what to do with the plighted Parnell? The waning all-rounder must win back some fans, if not in Port Elizabeth then at Centurion. The proverbial knives are out in the wake of Ryan McLaren’s World Cup omission.

Parnell must prove why he is the preferred all-rounder.

Struggling to swing the ball and often pitching it too short, perhaps a quiet word of warning from Domingo will quell the seamer’s belligerent bid to just bowl quickly – without much control.

Conditions at St George’s Park, although not as low and slow as Buffalo Park in East London, will demand the selection of at least one specialist spinner.

If anyone needs an extended run in the XI, it’s Imran Tahir. Five solid performances on the trot will do the leg spinner the world of good, and allowing him a complementary slow bowler in the form of Phangiso wouldn’t be untoward.

Then there’s Abbott, who should be given the chance to hone his bowling skills, namely the yorker, in a match or two devoid of much pressure.

While many will view today’s showdown in isolation, there remains plenty of big-picture value. Domingo and company would be silly not to bench a few key players.

His predecessor, Gary Kirsten, has publicly noted the value of fielding the most in-form, balanced XI on the day.

The Proteas, however, don’t want to go into February’s limited-overs showpiece in Australasia only having played 11 – and not fully aware of the depth of form across the entire 15-man squad.

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