Proteas should empty ‘bench’

Marchant de Lange (Gallo Images)
Marchant de Lange (Gallo Images)

Cape Town - South Africa will be tempted to freshen their side with all three hitherto inactive squad members for Sunday’s Twenty20 international decider against Australia in Sydney.

If they do opt to summon speedster Marchant de Lange -- perhaps the most required form of refreshment right now -- plus veteran left-arm spinning all-rounder Robin Peterson and the hard-hitting David Wiese for the Stadium Australia clash (10:35 SA time), they will also boast a usefully more experienced line-up than the one which was rather bullied in Friday’s series-levelling seven-wicket victory by the hosts at the MCG.

Fortunes can swing crazily in this format of dubious gravitas, and that was only underlined as the Aussies mercilessly avenged their own prior caning by the same margin at Adelaide Oval only two days earlier.

They put a foot firmly on South African throats straight away, and once they quickly earned success in the wickets column too, there was just no way back for the visiting innings or the hopes of JP Duminy’s outfit in the game as a whole.

By posting their lowest T20 total batting first – a wretched 101 for seven on a fast and bouncy pitch which Shane Warne reckoned was a “160 absolute minimum” one – the Proteas really gave their bowlers no chance, although Wayne Parnell performed grittily in the forlorn defence and there were again flashes of promise from the teenage paceman Kagiso Rabada.

The one ray of light to emerge from the largely dismal showing at the crease was Duminy’s cool-headed defiance for virtually half the runs (49) in his new role as skipper as chaos pretty much erupted around him.

It just confirmed how, right across the three forms of the international game, the country has men who genuinely lead from the front in the form of Hashim Amla, AB de Villiers, Faf du Plessis and now also Duminy when required to hold the tiller.

As Kepler Wessels noted in the SuperSport studio, the intensity of the Aussie attack unsettled too many other South African batsmen.

Another of the home-based TV critics, Shaun Pollock, made the point that the Proteas bowling line-up as constituted at the MCG was one geared more for a “defensive” effort and, considering the flimsy score they were tasked with trying to protect, it cried out for someone like a Dale Steyn (only to be re-infused for the looming one-day internationals) to strike hard and early.

So while the Phalaborwa Express is instead geared up for the ODI phase, one obvious way to address the shortfall in proper head-hunting potential is to call Marchant de Lange into the frame for Sydney.

The powerful 24-year-old does possess true gas and already boasts 10 wickets from four limited-overs appearances for South Africa; he needs to be unleashed if the Proteas are to wrest back some kind of psychological hold very smartly.

Ryan McLaren is just labouring a bit with his bowling at present – he made the mistake at his considerably more humble pace of banging it in on Friday, with expensive results in one over – so he could be the most obvious player to make way for the time being.

Mind you, that does nothing to shorten an unconvincing SA tail, which is a lingering problem in both limited-overs arenas.

Instead one of the specialist seamers might have to sit out to accommodate slingshot De Lange, and Wiese could be the one to challenge McLaren’s spot given his ability to help out the struggling David Miller in the intended “finishing” department at the crease – the lanky Titans customer also hits a very long ball when the planets are aligned for him.

There is also a case for possibly roping in the 35-year-old Peterson as the main spinner, ahead of Imran Tahir, which is another way of beefing the depth of the batting, given his versatile skills.

With his well over 100 caps for South Africa in all cricket, Peterson’s wisdom and temperament (not to mention unfailingly good fielding) could also be useful if the tourists are to bounce back in the ruthless manner the Aussies did on Friday ...

*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing

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