Proteas a worthy T20 bet

2007-09-18 14:33

Rob Houwing

Well, thus far I've been proved wrong.

In my pre-tourney column, I cautioned that South Africa might be a little light on 'orthodox' batsmen for the Twenty20 World Championship, especially considering the potential vagaries of spring-time pitch conditions countrywide.

But the Proteas have coped pretty well with their veritable battery of bludgeoning all-rounders (Shaun Pollock, Justin Kemp, Johan van der Wath, Albie Morkel, Vernon Philander... it's never-ending, isn't it?) and, as I write, must be considered robust bets to go all the way to the Wanderers final on Heritage Day.

Mind you, against England the other night I thought my fears were going to prove justified.

I wonder if, had Kevin Pietersen stuck around for five or six overs longer instead of being dismissed in near-freakish fashion, we wouldn't now be conducting a Proteas post-mortem and revisiting the 'balance' of the side!

For a longer stay at the crease by a clearly in-the-groove KP might well have proved South Africa's total, after batting first, insufficient.

I was not altogether comfortable, before the event, with the likelihood that Kemp might be employed at No 4... yet no complaints over the big fella thus far, even if he's sometimes had to come in pretty early-doors!

With Herschelle Gibbs hopefully fit and restored to the top of the order as quickly as possible, and Graeme Smith in tidy nick without quite bagging a big 'un yet, there ought to be slightly less pressure henceforth on the all-rounders anyway.

Bowling-wise, things are falling into place at the right time, too.

I thought the collective composure of the attack against England was exemplary: there was enough 'nip' in the night air for Pollock to beautifully restore some battered (quite genuinely!) pride, and even Makhaya Ntini - very sub-standard T20 thus far, it must be said - showed fledgling signs of improved rhythm.

Morne Morkel (he of those pumping, basketballer's 'pins') provides much-needed menace with his bounce, while his brother Albie... boy, doesn't he wallop a long ball!

I'm pretty sure passengers alighted from the "all stations to Fish Hoek" the other night to find a smoking white cherry rolling about near the doors at end destination after cheekily beginning its free passage via a carriage window at Newlands.

I back Biff's boys to secure a last-four spot at the earliest opportunity (ie, New Zealand at Kingsmead), turning their last Super Eights date against India into a perfect little fine-tuning exercise for the more serious business to follow.

  • Rob Houwing is editor of The Wisden Cricketer magazine.

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