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AB de Villiers admitted after the series-clinching win in Bloemfontein that South Africa were still far from perfect. This was a view backed by Allan Donald, who said on Saturday that despite some encouraging signs throughout the series against Sri Lanka, there were still plenty of areas in which the bowling could improve.
South Africa head into Sunday’s final match of the series against Tillakaratne Dilshan’s tourists, having experimented with personnel and tactics in an attempt to broaden the options De Villiers has available.
Donald rated South Africa’s performance with the ball in this series as “six or seven” out of 10, saying he was “chuffed” with the work that had been put in but as part of his process there were still areas that needed upgrading.
South Africa’s bowling was its major strength at the World Cup last year. While the batting was very inconsistent, the bowlers were a success, bowling out six of the seven opposition batting line-ups including the much-vaunted Indian world champions in a group match.
This series has probably seen them a little off the form they showed at that tournament, but then the circumstances are much different. This series has seen a bit of tinkering – or mixing things up, as De Villiers puts it – with Morné Morkel and Dale Steyn sharing the new ball with Lonwabo Tsotsobe. Robin Peterson bowled in the batting Power Play on Friday night, an unusual move for a team known for adopting the conservative option.
“That was a gut-feel from the captain,” Donald remarked. “We have to back him when he makes it.”
The areas in which Donald, the national side’s bowling coach, would like to see improvement is in getting the ball to reverse swing and of course the oft talked about problem of death-bowling – the latter an area that worked particularly well at the World Cup.
“One thing we are working hard on is reverse swing.”
Adding to the challenge is the use of two balls per innings which became a rule at the start of the season.
Where in one respect the new measure provides an added weapon at the start of the innings, it makes it harder to achieve reverse swing because the ball does not scuff up sufficiently.
“In South Africa it’s quite hard because the pitches and the outfield are lush. In the sub-continent the balls scuff up a lot easier. Throwing the ball in on the bounce helps. But we will hold the ball cross-seam and also not shine it.”
Reverse swinging the ball impacts on how the bowlers operate at the “death” too.
“I played against the best in the world in Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis. Those guys made batters look silly at the end because you didn’t know which way it was coming. Where we need to go is that the ball needs to reverse from both sides of the wicket.”
However, the game has changed so much, that bowling at the “death” is no long the sole preserve of just a couple of “specialists” like Charl Langeveldt for instance. “We are trying to create a group of guys so that when your No1 ‘death’ bowler is not having a good day they can share that load.”
The national selectors will meet at the Wanderers today to pick the SA squads for the tour to New Zealand next month.
Donald, who worked with the Black Caps at the World Cup last year, said he expected a competitive series against the Kiwis.
* Cricket SA’s Board of Directors have awarded Vernon Philander a national contract from February 1. Philander has been the outstanding find of the summer, claiming 30 wickets in four Tests, including five-wicket hauls in four of the eight innings in which he bowled.
CSA also announced on Saturday that South Africa would play in five T20 matches in Zimbabwe in June, before the tour to England.
South Africa: Graeme Smith, Alviro Petersen, Colin Ingram, AB de Villiers (capt), Faf du Plessis, JP Duminy, Albie Morkel, Robin Peterson, Dale Steyn, Morné Morkel, Lonwabo Tsotsobe, Vernon Philander, Wayne Parnell, Johan Botha
Sri Lanka: Tillakaratne Dilshan (capt), Upul Tharanga, Kumar Sangakkara, Dinesh Chandimal, Mahela Jayawardene, Angelo Mathews, Nuwan Kulasekara, Kosala Kulasekara, Rangana Herath, Lasith |Malinga, Dhammika Prasad, Thisara Perera, Lahiru Thirimanne, Dilhara Fernando, Sichithra Senanyake
TV: 9.30am, SS2/SS HD2/CSN/10am, SABC3 - Sunday Independent