CAPE TOWN – Former Proteas captain Graeme Smith has urged the national selectors to be “aggressive” and “avoid shying away from picking front-line bowlers” for Saturday’s ICC Champions Trophy Group 2 opener against Sri Lanka at The Oval.
South Africa have included four all-rounders – Chris Morris, Wayne Parnell, Andile Phehlukwayo and Dwaine Pretorius – in their squad for the Champions Trophy and have recently played at least three in the majority of their ODIs leading up to the tournament.
The thought process behind this tactical decision is to lengthen the batting order, which is set to be particularly crucial in this tournament with the lower-order expected to contribute significantly.
England certainly showed no team should be fearful of chasing down a 300-run target in the opening game at The Oval on Thursday with Joe Root’s unbeaten 133 taking the hosts past Bangladesh’s 305/6 with 16 balls to spare.
Due to power of the opposition batting units, Smith therefore remains a strong believer that “wicket-taking options are key in limited overs cricket”.
“The big thing for South Africa is finding its edge. That aggressive streak comes out when it is playing at its best. The team needs to be aggressive with its selections to create that. I like the option of Parnell with the new ball,” Smith told www.icc-cricket.com.
“If Parnell can swing the ball and strike early, you then have guys like (Morné) Morkel to come on first change. I’ve always said that wicket-taking options are key in limited overs cricket. They allow you to control the game and control scoring as a captain. Having people that can knock the best players over gives you the best chance of restricting sides in the modern era.”
Smith does, though, believe South Africa’s team has greater balance now that Chris Morris has emerged as a genuine seam bowling all-rounder at No 7.
“Morris has earned the right to start. He has looked a good option with both bat and ball, and if the attack also then contains Kagiso Rabada, Wayne Parnell, Morné Morkel and Imran Tahir, there is a very attacking nature to it and I believe they possess the ability do some damage on most surfaces in England,” Smith said.
“Morris’ batting has really surprised me. The consistency with which he strikes the ball, something we saw in the IPL as well, is coupled with real composure under pressure.”
AB de Villiers has enjoyed a good run winning the toss lately with the Proteas ODI skipper electing to chase in all three matches against England leading up to the Champions Trophy.
In the first two ODIs at Headingley and Southampton’s Ageas Bowl it backfired though as England posted over 330 to win both games and seal the series. However, at Lord’s in the dead-rubber,South Africa’s attack found their rhythm to reduce the hosts to 20/6 within the first five overs. Although England recovered through a half-century from Jonny Bairstow, it was still nowhere near enough as JP Duminy and De Villiers took South Africa home by seven wickets.
However, should De Villiers win the toss again on Saturday, Smith wants South Africa to put Sri Lanka under pressure through runs on the scoreboard.
“I’d think South Africa will be looking to bat first and put runs on the board. As much as The Oval is usually a tough ground to defend on, in my playing days I always felt your best chance of beating sub-continent teams was to get big runs in the first innings,” he explained.
“The Sri Lanka attack, even with Lasith Malinga, isn’t what it was when it contained the likes of Chaminda Vaas and Muttiah Muralitharan. Sri Lanka’s strength will be trying to score runs first up and squeeze teams. It has always found a way to put you under pressure as a batting side, and again as a team – it always seems to find a way to be competitive at the big tournaments.”