Cape Town – A player with only nine prior one-day international appearances could play a more influential role than some people imagine in South Africa’s assault on the ICC Champions Trophy early next month.
Dwaine Pretorius, the 28-year-old all-rounder from Randfontein, will be something of a mystery factor to most opponents at the short, sharp tournament with an accent on strength versus strength.
Of the three group opponents the Proteas face – Sri Lanka, Pakistan and India – only the ‘Lankans have some recent first-hand knowledge of the strings to his cricketing bow.
The reasonably late-blooming Lions customer played two ODIs against them during last summer, including registering impressive bowling figures of 7-2-19-3 at his home franchise venue of the Wanderers.
But the other two Subcontinent-based national teams will have to do some extra homework to gauge what sort of threat he poses – assuming, of course, that Pretorius actually cracks the nod amidst a strong cupboard of SA squad pace bowling options.
Yet there is good reason to suspect that he will get a chance to strut his stuff for the first time in a major ICC tournament.
He is arguably the closest thing the Proteas will have to an orthodox, English-style medium-pacer whose natural length is fairly close to the bat and seaming the ball away – always a potentially prize asset in that country, especially in their relatively early season.
Pretorius used to try to crank it up a bit more to qualify for the “fast-medium” tag, but since knee surgery a few seasons ago, the “medium” bit is now rather more applicable in his case, with accuracy and patience of assault important virtues for him.
That gives him a handy point of difference to several others in the Proteas’ general pace arsenal over the next few weeks in the UK – including the fast-looming three ODIs against England prior to the Champs Trophy - and it may just be something coach Russell Domingo and his co-strategists are keen to exploit.
Certainly there were strong hints in similarly temperate New Zealand climes quite recently, when South Africa pleasingly edged the ODI series against the Black Caps 3-2, that Pretorius will prosper at the multinational event if summoned to battle.
Apart from his overall body language looking encouragingly confident and purposeful, Pretorius confirmed in the Land of the Long White Cloud that he is a factor in conditions where lateral movement is on offer.
He came to light outstandingly, for example, in the Proteas’ crushing 159-run triumph in the damp third ODI at Wellington’s Westpac Stadium, where he produced a destructive salvo of 3/5 in five overs as NZ were bundled out for a misery 112 under floodlights.
Like several squad rivals for bowling places, Pretorius has extremely decent batting credentials as well, but he just seems a sensible fit for a genuine, old-fashioned seamer’s role in England, especially if the sun struggles to crack through often stubborn cloud-cover there.
He may even be in with a shout to share upfront duties, although the incumbents are effectively Kagiso Rabada and Chris Morris; they offer more in pure pace and aggression and did well in that new-ball capacity as an alliance in the decisive fifth and final ODI (Auckland) in New Zealand.
His presence is all the more reassuring because the Proteas, for varying reasons, have been stripped of the services of several specialist, kiss-the-deck types of speedsters in recent times, all of whom might have come in extremely useful during the lengthy tour of the UK.
The legendary Dale Steyn is in uncertain, painstaking recovery from long-term injury, Vernon Philander is increasingly prone to niggles as he nears the age of 32 – the big priority is to get him fully fit for the later four Test matches in England – and Kyle Abbott is a major loss in that respect too.
Now Kolpak-contracted, the durable, probing Abbott, holder of 28 ODI caps before his unfortunate change of loyalties, has been in excellent early-season first-class form for Hampshire.
Abbott has grabbed 20 wickets at an average of 16.80 in the three County Championship matches thus far, even if his one-day form hasn’t quite set the scene alight yet.
Still, it is probably fair to say the Proteas are still in adaptation mode, to some extent, to life after the former Dolphins and Warriors stalwart.
Come in, then, Mr Pretorius?
*Rob Houwing will be
attending the Champions Trophy for Sport24. Follow our chief writer on Twitter: