Proteas need a dose of Faf’s energy

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Stand-in Proteas captain Faf du Plessis.

Cape Town – Faf du Plessis will captain South Africa for the remainder of the one-day series against New Zealand after regular skipper AB de Villiers was hit with a two-match ban on Sunday. De Villiers will therefore miss the remainder of the three-match series against the Black Caps.

ICC match referee David Boon imposed the sanction on De Villiers for South Africa’s slow over rate in the first ODI in Paarl on Saturday. To add further insult to injury, the Proteas lost by one wicket at Boland Park, with all-rounder James Franklin shepherding the Kiwi tail over the line.

De Villiers’s players were also docked 100% of their match fees after the Proteas were ruled to be six overs short of their target at the end of the match when time allowances were taken into consideration. He pleaded guilty to the offence and accepted the punishment, so there was no need for a formal hearing.

The loss of De Villiers is a big blow for South Africa, especially as they are already without Jacques Kallis and the injured JP Duminy, leaving them thin on experience in the batting.

David Miller will be brought in as a replacement for the remaining two ODIs. Although Hashim Amla is the official vice-captain of the Proteas limited-overs squads and has led the team before in De Villiers’s absence, the opening batsman is a reluctant leader.

“Hashim Amla, who was next in line, asked not to be considered for the captaincy so that he can concentrate on his batting and we felt we should accede to his request,” CSA selection convener Andrew Hudson, “That left Faf du Plessis as the logical choice after the good job he did with the team in the T20 international series against New Zealand.

“Losing AB for the remainder of the series is obviously a big blow to us, particularly as he is still growing in the captaincy and needs every opportunity ahead of the ICC Champions Trophy in the middle of the year. At the same time it is an opportunity for David Miller who has been on the fringes of our 50 overs thinking.”

Amla’s position is in contrast to Du Plessis, who thoroughly enjoyed his leadership stint during the preceding T20 series when De Villiers was rested due to “fatigue”.

He quipped at the time that it “keeps me energetic” and “going forward it is something I enjoy and if it is something they want me to do, I’ll be glad to do it.”

South Africa may need to lean heavily on that energy during the remaining two ODIs in Kimberley on Tuesday and Potchefstroom next Friday. The Proteas put in a lethargic batting display at Paarl, with only Du Plessis managing to adapt to an uneven surface with a gritty half-century.

The bowlers also delivered an ill-disciplined performance, with the home side leaking 31 extras on the day.

Fifteen wides and three no balls made up the majority of the extras, with Rory Kleinveldt delivering nine of the wides. This constitutes three extra overs and considering South Africa were six overs past the time limit, it is inexcusable at international level.

Another concerning aspect of the Paarl ODI was Lonwabo Tsotsobe’s obvious lack of match fitness. The left-arm swing bowler, who was playing in his first match since recovering from injury, delivered an impressive opening spell where he claimed two wickets. He was the only bowler to extract real bounce on the placid Paarl surface, but then looked totally out of sorts when he had to return for a second and third spell.

Coach Gary Kirsten will know that through more gametime Tsotsobe will get better, but will no doubt rotate some of his bowlers for the tomorrow’s ODI in the Diamond City. Morné Morkel will likely return to starting line-up at the expense of Dale Steyn, who was good without being spectacular in Paarl.

The Kiwis seemed to have adopted a strategy against Steyn where they are content to play without risk against the world’s premier fast bowler. It certainly worked in Paarl where Franklin and Kyle Mills simply rotated the strike to inch New Zealand closer to the target.

Among the batsmen, Farhaan Behardien will most likely come into the starting line-up after missing out in Paarl. The Titans batsman should slot straight into De Villiers’s position to become South Africa’s third debutant of the series after wicket-keeper Quinton de Kock and Kleinveldt had their first outings at Boland Park. – Cape Times


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