Proteas open up their options

2010-01-09 00:00

THE South African selectors have responded to the third Test stalemate by adding Wayne Parnell and Imran Tahir to the squad for next week’s final Test at the Wanderers.

At the least, the two additions will provide a ripple of uncertainty among those who played at Newlands, especially Paul Harris.

Friedel de Wet, who was suffering from a back problem, may miss out to Parnell, who would provide a new dimension to the seam attack.

The slightly unexpected call-up of leg-spinner Tahir suggests the Proteas are planning ahead for the tour to India in February.

Tahir, currently in Maritzburg with the Easterns amateur side, has taken a bucket load of wickets at first class level, and his qualification for South Africa had been eagerly anticipated last year.

Curiously, interest in Tahir died down as soon as he did get a local passport, but his successes locally and at county level with Hampshire suggest that the Proteas may have missed a trick.

Despite numerous efforts to contact him last night, Weekend Witness was unable to talk directly to Tahir, although a report said that he had received 27 missed calls of congratulations by the end of yesterday’s play at The Oval.

Tahir (30) has already snared 30 wickets this season and has added five more inland sculps to his season haul.

The lack of a quality spinner to wreak havoc on the last day was what stood between the Proteas and a series-levelling win.

Whether he will actually play next week is debatable, given South African selectors’ notoriously conservative approach.

Dropping Harris would probably be too bold a call for Mike Procter and his fellow wise heads, but sometimes loyalty has its own price.

One would think that the Proteas would have learnt from the Makhaya Ntini situation, when they gave him an extra match despite him being in poor form. The upshot of that was that they went into the Kingsmead clash with a very lame attack, and England plundered over 500 runs to set up the decisive victory.

Harris has certainly done well for the Proteas over the last two years, but he is a man terribly low on confidence. His deliveries have become flatter and flatter — a sure sign that a spinner is struggling.

South Africa simply cannot carry anyone next week, and no one will begrudge the selectors if they employ a horses-for-courses approach for this one-off Test.

The other concern for the Proteas is Ashwell Prince. His experiment at the top of the order is not working, and his body language paints a grim picture of someone resigned to failure.

England have preyed on that the entire series, and they will hope the SA selectors are so kind as to continue with him again.

SQUAD

Graeme Smith (capt), Hashim Amla, Mark Boucher, AB de Villiers, Friedel de Wet, JP Duminy, Paul Harris, Jacques Kallis, Ryan McLaren, Morne Morkel, Wayne Parnell, Alviro Petersen, Ashwell Prince, Dale Steyn, Imran Tahir.

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