From a South African point of view, the Proteas’ tour of Australia has so far been about a strong batting line-up maintaining its reputation for scoring runs against an equally imposing bowling attack that has temporarily lost its cojones.
In South Africa’s warm-up game against Australia A at the Sydney Cricket Ground, the hosts compiled 480/7 dec in their only innings; in the first Test at the Gabba in Brisbane, Australia put together 565/5 declared in their only innings.
That’s more than a thousand runs in two innings. And the wicket count for Vernon Philander, the Proteas’ most successful pace bowler over the last year? Zero.
Reasons have been put forward to explain this, principally the fact that both pitches were slow and offered nothing for the bowlers.
Nevertheless, the pride of the Proteas’ pace attack – regarded by many as the best in the world – must have been bruised.
The immediate future doesn’t promise relief anytime soon for the pace bowlers. The Adelaide Oval is regarded as one of the best batting pitches on the planet, at least until it begins to deteriorate over the last day or so.
continued from back page
The current captain of the South Australia Redbacks, former Warriors and Proteas all-rounder Johan Botha, is certainly not going to deny that.
Botha’s feeling, however, is that South Africa missed a trick when they failed to play their leg-spinner, Imran Tahir, in Brisbane. Yes, they were hit by bad luck when JP Duminy was injured at the end of the first day, but Botha said that Duminy is still something of a part-time off-spinner and that he wouldn’t have had the impact of the former Pakistani.
“Imran is an attacking bowler and offers a lot of variation. He also has some great quick bowlers to help him out. The South African attack at the moment is the best it’s ever been and I really hope Imran plays because he can be an important part of it.”
Botha, 30, who has played five Tests, 78 ODIs and 40 T20s in his career to date, says that spin has recently become an important ingredient in the Proteas bowling armoury in particular, and the nation’s cricket in general – something that has not often been the case.
The former Warriors player hinted that Tahir’s confidence might be fragile as he has yet to reproduce his prolific wicket-taking form at franchise level onto the international stage. So far he has taken 26 wickets at 40.19 in his 10 Tests.
“It happens to all of us,” he continued. “Whatever our experience, we want to put in a match-winning performance, take a five or six-wicket haul, so that the question marks around our place in the team disappear. If Immy could do that, it would settle his nerves, and that of his teammates, and enable him to forget about his place and just focus on bowling. I certainly hope that he plays here and that he is successful.”
Botha said the profile of spin in South African cricket had grown significantly in the last few years, partly due to the amount of time the national team had played on the sub-continent and the way they had adapted to the conditions there. “That’s been good to see,” he said.