Watch out for these youngsters

2016-02-03 06:00

THE “T” as in Test match in cricket or rugby is written as a capital letter to give special significance to its eminent status in those two sports.

Thus it is that while AB de Villiers’ Proteas took something of a hiding from Alastair Cook’s England tourists, going down in the all-important Test series 2-1 with one drawn, there are still, at the rear end of the tour, the matinee events – the five ODIs in which the South Africans can at least regain a modicum of pride.

Cook won’t be playing in this match but that changes nothing of what follows, while possibly at this very moment as the first of these 50-over ODIs is about to begin – the glinting coin at this moment deciding who will bat or bowl as it spins in the air at the Mangaung Oval in Bloemfontein.

Very much the team game is cricket. Where would you be without your “quick” as he tries to find a way to smash those precious stumps; or the batsman with his blade that’s aimed at outwitting the spinner’s guile, the opening bowler’s blazing pace? The bowler wants his wicket, the batsman a sweetly connecting four or better yet the ultimate prize of a soaring six.

Here in Bloem today both sides are bristling with stalwarts of the arts of bat and ball. Taking a look at England the first name to appear has to be Ben Stokes, who wound up Man of the Series, picking up 12 wickets and scoring 411 runs – and, if you please, he’s a mere 24 years old. He has furthermore been described by Proteas’ newcomer, Chris Morris, as “the best all-rounder in the world at this moment.”

The relative newcomer to Test cricket goes on: “I mean he can bat, he can bowl and he’s a first-class fielder to boot! You don’t get much better than that!” True what he says, but as much as Stokes is likely to be one of England’s trump cards in the one-day series, Morris himself, a few years older than Stokes at 28, could well turn out to be one of the South African kingpins of the five-match series.

There’s nothing Morris would love more than to step into the sort of class that Stokes is currently treading. A year ago these two first crossed swords in a series between England’s Lions and a South African A side.

A regular thriller in Mamelodi, Stokes scored 151 off 85 balls and took three wickets. Morris didn’t do too badly either: scoring 58 off just 33 balls and taking 3/50 with some fine bowling. Until now it’s been a case of Morris’s bowling having to play second fiddle to his batting. But with Dale Steyn’s shoulder injury and Kyle Abbott’s hamstring strain keeping the pair out of the picture things could change. And this more than anything is what Morris would like to be – South Africa’s No. 1 all-rounder.

These next five ODIs could well provide the start for that climb to the top.

Meanwhile young Kagiso Radaba’s sudden leap towards the game’s top rung with his deadly display of pace and accuracy in the final Test in Centurion couldn’t have come at a better time.

Radaba claimed 13 wickets for 144 in the series’ final Test. This saw him record the second-best figures by a South African, just a fraction behind Makhaya Ntini’s 13-132 against the West Indies in 2005.

Just a 20-year-old Radaba, a former St Stithian’s lad, with 22 victims in the final three Tests. The secret of his success so far? “I’ve learnt that in Test cricket there’s very little room for error. I try to keep it as simple as possible.”

That’s good thinking for one so young. With players like these going head-to-head some really fine cricket is surely in prospect in the weeks to come.

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