Show some love for Proteas’ bowlers

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Stuart Hess says the Proteas bowling unit is not getting the recognition that they should be getting.

Can we get some love for the South African bowlers? They deserve it, don’t they?

It’s perfectly understandable that the outstanding exploits of the opening batting pair, Hashim Amla and Quinton de Kock, have received so much airtime.

It’s been a while since South Africa has been able to dominate the opposition at the top of the order, and the early signs of the current opening pair bode well for the months ahead.

Meanwhile, the bowling is in danger of being taken for granted. South Africa has had outstanding depth, variety and attacking verve in the bowling unit for the past three years.

The team had the best bowling attack at the last World Cup, but unfortunately batting failures, mainly in the top order but also in a fragile middle order, proved painfully costly in Dhaka.

Still, amid all the chopping and changing, and rotating and experimenting that’s been going on with the one-day side in the last 24 months, the bowling has remained largely steady.

And the fact that the options available to captain AB de Villiers are even wider now than was the case for Graeme Smith in India in 2011 speaks volumes for the depth that exists, and how those who’ve been given an opportunity have done so successfully.

In this series, they’ve annihilated India’s much-vaunted line-up. Conditions at the Wanderers were in their favour, but as MS Dhoni likes to say, players still need to properly use those conditions in order to gain reward.

Dale Steyn used them expertly at the Wanderers and when there was less for him to work with at Kingsmead, he bullied them, softening up both Virat Kohli and Ajinkye Rahane for Lonwabo Tsotsobe and Morné Morkel, who picked up the pieces, respectively.

South Africa have some rich resources in their bowling. Steyn, a leaner and more determined Tsotsobe and the ever-dangerous Morkel have left India floundering.

Tsotsobe’s newfound motivation to remain fit has not just helped his bowling but his fielding, too, and he is no longer the bumbling oaf of previous seasons.

The improved fitness has helped his bowling too, he is stronger at the crease and bowls his second or (if required) third spells with as much “pop” as the first.

Morkel can infuriate and there exists a school of thought that he doesn’t take enough wickets. His argument will be that with Steyn and Tsotsobe sharing 12 of the India wickets in this series between them, there’s little on offer for him.

His dismissal of Shikhar Dhawan at the Wanderers last week, however, showed exactly why you want him in your side. Batsmen feel uncomfortable when facing someone with Morkel’s height, and in Dhawan’s case the only outlet he saw was to attack from the start, hence the top edge while hooking.

Ryan McLaren has provided an outstanding foil for the main quickies all year, and heading into today’s final Momentum ODI in Centurion, he’s taken 45 wickets from 23 matches at an average of 23.77.

He’s got a lot of variation – he’s become an outstanding component of the slower-ball bouncer – and has developed into a key “death bowler”.

The coaching staff still seem undecided over who to play between Vernon Philander and Wayne Parnell, but it’s a problem they’d much rather have than not.

Spin has been a rarity for the South Africans in this series, with JP Duminy getting through only a few overs in Durban.

But even in the spin department South African can use the expertise of Robin Peterson and Imran Tahir, who were both influential in the subcontinent in 2011.

There hasn’t been a pitch in the ODIs to suit their talents, as South Africa have adopted an all-out pace assault on India, who historically have battled with conditions in this country.

South Africa certainly seem capable of maintaining this unit through to the next World Cup.

They will continue to strive to attack opponents rather than to contain, though that sometimes leads to recklessness, which explains 27 wides in the two ODIs in this series. - The Star


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