The residents of this quaint southern city are happy to host the South African cricket team – they just want them staying away from their beloved football side.
Southampton, aka the Saints, played their first home game in the Premier League in seven years on Saturday with a number of the South African squad attending. Unfortunately the day didn’t turn out so well for Southampton, who lost 2-0 to Wigan, and there was a cheeky suggestion by some local supporters that it was the touring cricket side’s fault for bringing bad luck to St Mary’s Stadium.
So it was best then that the Proteas got back to some training on Sunday – on the cricket field – ahead of Tuesday’s second one-day international against England at The Ageas Bowl (or Rose Bowl). With just 37 balls possible in the abandoned first match, not much, if anything at all was learned about the two sides.
Both teams will be keeping a close eye on the weather. This being the wettest summer anyone here can remember, the forecast for sunny skies on Tuesday has been met with relief by Hampshire County Cricket Club, who are responsible for the venue. Both sets of players were left frustrated by all the rain in Cardiff last Friday, so a chance to get on to the field for some action has them all re-energised, especially the players who had participated in a tough Test series.
For South Africa’s bowlers, and presumably England’s, the extra day’s rest was probably handy. Dale Steyn probably would have played if circumstances required, but he will be available for selection now that his neck isn’t stiff anymore. Albie Morkel remains a concern, with his ankle ailment being treated as a day-to-day case, but will be put through his paces at this morning’s practice, yet it will only be once he wakes up on Tuesday that a proper assessment can be done.
As is the case with their batting, South Africa’s bowling is very much about flexibility. It started at the World Cup last year, where then captain Graeme Smith opened the bowling with spinner Johan Botha (against the West Indies) and Robin Peterson (against England) and it is an area AB de Villiers will be utilising as well.
From Friday’s starting XI, had there been anything close to a full innings, De Villiers had at his disposal seven bowlers. It helps that there are so many all-rounders of course. The best – Jacques Kallis – may not be participating in the series, but in Ryan McLaren, Robin Peterson, Albie Morkel and Wayne Parnell there are sufficient good bowlers who have reasonable batting qualities so as not to weaken the lower order.
Where South Africa have struggled previously, certainly up until the World Cup last year, was the spin department, but Peterson and Imran Tahir – who is also in the one-day squad – have greatly improved that part of South Africa’s game.
Most importantly perhaps they are not viewed just as containing bowlers, and Smith wanted them to attack last year, which is what they’ll continue doing under De Villiers.
Faf du Plessis and JP Duminy would in most circumstances bowl those “make up” overs, though it could be argued, certainly in Duminy’s case, that he is good enough to get through a full 10-over spell.
There are enough options for De Villiers, but a key part of his captaincy will be in utilising those dynamics. If the sun shines in the next two weeks, we’ll see how creative he can be. – The Star