CWC: Steyn-less Proteas seek new balance for The Oval

Chris Morris (Getty)
Chris Morris (Getty)

London - With Dale Steyn out injured, the Proteas go into Thursday's World Cup opener against England seeking a new balance. 

It was not supposed to go this way. 

Steyn was to accompany Kagiso Rabada and Lungi Ngidi in forming a pace trio that was billed as one of the most lethal at the tournament. 

But with the 35-year-old still recovering from the shoulder injury that had threatened his selection in the 15-man squad, South Africa must look elsewhere on Thursday and probably in their second clash against Bangladesh (also at The Oval) on Sunday too.

It is far from ideal given the emphasis South Africa have placed on their quicks in the build-up to the tournament. 

With The Oval wicket boasting more than a hint of green on Wednesday, playing two spinners is almost certainly out of the question. 

Instead, the Proteas are likely to go with one of Dwaine Pretorius or Chris Morris against an English batting line-up that can go very big if the bowling is not up to standard. 

While Pretorius is theoretically ahead of Morris in the pecking order given that he was included in the initial squad while Morris was a late addition after Anrich Nortje's injury, it could be Morris who cracks the nod. 

Now 32, Morris is a more like-for-like replacement for Steyn given that he has comfortably more pace than Pretorius. 

Whichever way they go, though, skipper Faf du Plessis acknowledges that it hurts not having Steyn available.

"Yeah, it is a big loss to our team," he told media at The Oval on Wednesday.

"He was probably about 60 per cent when the squad was picked, so we anticipated for this to happen."

"A fit Dale Steyn makes our bowling attack a very, very strong one. So tomorrow will be a little bit of chopping and changing to get a balance that we think can take on England.

"One of our X-factors is that we potentially have a really, really strong attack in terms of pace. Steyn, Rabada, Ngidi is a real threat in English conditions, so that changes.

"That's Plan A for the World Cup in terms of our balance and what we're looking to achieve. Now it's just a real reshuffle and looking to Plan B and C."

Coach Ottis Gibson had said on Tuesday that South Africa's best chance at curbing the England batting attack was to pick up wickets regularly, and that attacking mindset is something that Du Plessis is looking at in picking Steyn's 'replacement' for The Oval. 

"England is a team that plays very aggressively. We all know that," Du Plessis said.

"For us as a leadership group, it's trying to find how can we be most attacking by trying to get wickets.

"We'll look at set up our team to try to make sure we pick guys who can get wickets.

"There's no point in trying to play a defensive style of cricket against England because they have shown that they can take any bowling attack on the day.

"We'll try and pick our team to try and be as positive in team selection as possible that we can be."

Play on Thursday starts at 11:30 (SA time).

@LloydBurnard is in England covering the 2019 Cricket World Cup for Sport24 ...

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