Proteas coach Russell Domingo has refused to get into an early mind-games battle with Australian captain Michael Clarke, dismissing the victorious Ashes skipper’s recent brash comments as just “all talk”.
Fresh after his team’s destruction of England 5-0, and possibly still giddy after all the Ashes celebrations, Clarke fired the first round of verbals by saying “we have the greatest attack in the world and they’ve shown it.”
Left-arm spearhead Mitchell Johnson has been sensational Down Under, claiming 37 wickets at an average of only 13.97.
Johnson has been ably assisted by fellow pacemen Ryan Harris (22 at 19.31) and Peter Siddle (16 at 24.12), but Clarke’s statement remains a bold one considering the Proteas fast bowlers have consistently been ranked top of the world pecking order over the past couple of years.
Vernon Philander looks down from the No 1 Test bowling spot, and the Australians cannot claim ignorance of Philander’s abilities with the ball, as the “Ravensmead Wrecker” bagged a five-for on his Test debut to rout the Aussies for a measly 47 at Newlands on their last tour here.
And then there’s Dale Steyn, who follows Philander at No 2 in the rankings, but has been the premier fast bowler in the world for a lengthy period.
That’s not even taking into account the unique talents of beanpole Morné Morkel who brings back memories of the great West Indian fast bowlers due to the amount of bounce he is able to extract from even the most placid of pitches.
“It’s all talk. Just talk. England’s bowling coach said something similar last year, and now the Australians are saying it. It’s just talk, that’s the way we look at it,” Domingo told the Cape Times yesterday.
“We prefer not to get involved in these types of things, and instead focus on our performances. The guys are involved with the RamSlam T20 at the moment and we saw there were a couple of good performances with the ball there too that illustrated our depth, so we’ll continue to work on our skills.”
The opening round of T20 Challenge matches – a triple-header at Newlands on Sunday which involved all six franchises, including the national players – was certainly a window for players to impress the Proteas coach. In conditions that favoured the bowlers, no one player took his opportunity more than Cape Cobras left-arm seamer Beuran Hendricks.
Strongly built, with an imposing physique, Hendricks bears a great resemblance to Johnson. Bowling at good pace throughout, and swinging the ball both ways, the 23-year-old from Bellville delivered the best performance in South Africa’s T20 history, with a haul of 6-29 to take his team over the line. Besides Hendricks’s skills-set of being able to bring the ball back into the right-hander, it was his ability to handle the pressure of bowling the last over when just 15 had to be defended.
“Beuran really showed what he could do. He’s been good all season, right from the start when India A were here during the winter,” Domingo said.
There has been a lot of speculation about a possible replacement for Jacques Kallis in the Test side. Could it be a like-for-like change with Knights all-rounder Ryan McLaren coming in, a wicket-keeper batsman in the form of Quinton de Kock, or a specialist batsman like Dean Elgar?
All the scenarios have merit, but could Domingo be tempted to fight fire-with-fire by drafting in young Hendricks when the much-anticipated Test series against the Baggy Greens gets underway next month?
“He’s a left-armer who bowls at good pace, that’s always exciting,” Domingo said.
“He’s got good variations, a good yorker and the selectors have definitely spoken about him. But Beuran’s still young and finding his way. We are also blessed to have many good fast bowlers around at the moment.
“Obviously there’s Vern, Dale, Morné, but bubbling just below we’ve still got Rory (Kleinveldt), Wayne (Parnell), Kyle (Abbot), Chris (Morris), so we’re in a good position not to rush anybody at this stage.” - Cape Times