Is there really no one better?

2014-03-26 00:00

CAPE TOWN — Does he use the “soft” game against the Netherlands to help give some of his more labouring bowling troops improved confidence, or is it the perfect opportunity to ring necessary changes?

That is the question facing Proteas coach Russell Domingo and his close advisers ahead of South Africa’s third group obligation at Chittagong tomorrow (11.30 am SA time) in the ICC World Twenty20.

Frankly, there will be widespread support for alteration to the attack, given certain woes that were again not masked by Dale Steyn’s brilliance in the heart-stopping, high-scoring triumph over New Zealand.

In short, the Proteas came perilously close to a second consecutive tournament defeat that would have made their advance to the semi-finals greatly less likely.

There is also a very credible argument for saying: what does it prove if ailing pacemen Morné Morkel and Lonwabo Tsotsobe bounce back with better figures against the Dutch minnows, who were embarrassingly pulverised by Sri Lanka in yesterday’s later game?

My own belief is that under-delivery in T20 Internationals by the two beanpoles has been too habitual of late to justify their retention, even if both have had plenty of prior influential outings in the format for their country — and may, at some future point, manage that again.

Statistics tell a pretty stark tale of their respective plights in recent times, including poor showings in each of the two tourney fixtures thus far.

Morkel has been thumped for 81 runs in seven overs at the event, including his most expensive run concession rate (16.66 per over) from 38 international appearances when he surrendered 50 in three overs against the Black Caps.

He has leaked at 10 runs an over or more in three of his last five T20 Internationals and only picked up two scalps in the process, both in the loss against Sri Lanka.

Tsotsobe, meanwhile, has been less expensive, but his key task is to strike upfront (he cannot reliably be used anywhere else in an innings) and he has failed abjectly in that regard, both in the first two games at this tournament and bit further back than that.

The big left-armer has a flimsy one wicket from his last six T20 Internationals and when his slowness in the field and non-batting status is damningly added to the equation, you have the full right to ask: is there really no one better?

It is time, I feel, to haul both Wayne Parnell, who simultaneously boosts the batting department in the lower order, and rookie Beuran Hendricks out of the shed — or possibly even to expand the spin department via Aaron Phangiso if that is considered appropriate — and get them smartly into the groove against the Netherlands.

The one thing about Parnell is his happy knack of picking up wickets even with bad balls — no problem in the lotto-like landscape that is T20 — while Hendricks should not be kept bottled simply because he had a slightly traumatic first feel for international cricket in the collectively inept mini-series against Australia recently.

Making your debut against a traditionally in-your-face team like the Aussies in a seven-over virtual farce at Kingsmead is about as thankless a task as you can muster for a greenhorn: he deserves further exposure in a “proper” T20 scenario.

He is young, eager and daring in his willingness to offer significant variety in his deliveries, so much so that perhaps that was his worst enemy a couple of weeks back. Keeping things a little simpler might benefit him if he gets game-time in Bangladesh, where the pitches so far have surprised in having something in them for canny seamers.

South Africa got off the hook against the New Zealanders primarily because of Steyn’s lion-hearted intensity — yet amazing associated discipline — with the ball and JP Duminy’s increasingly sublime innings after a suitably patient start.

It is an opportune moment now to reinforce the overall mix by dropping a couple of passengers … the win against the Black Caps was satisfying in the manner they hung in there, but South Africa also need to be a whole lot better if they are to win this tournament for the first time.

Hopefully the team’s strategists will realise that.

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