Proteas captain Faf du Plessis is hopeful that the newcomers in the batting line-up can put pressure on the established stars. Photo: Muzi Ntombela/BackpagePix

JOHANNESBURG – Little fault can be found with South Africa’s bowling over the past couple of weeks against Zimbabwe, and it’s an area where the depth and quality is strong.

It would be easy to dismiss the efforts of the Proteas bowlers by saying “it’s only Zimbabwe”, but that would be paying a great disservice to the efforts of Dale Steyn, Lungi Ngidi, Kagiso Rabada and Imran Tahir.

In addition, when they’ve rotated out of the team, Dane Paterson, Robbie Frylinck and Andile Phehlukwayo have all performed to the requisite standards.

They provided proof that there are indeed a lot of options for the selectors to consider as they begin the process of whittling down the numbers for the 15-man squad for the World Cup next year.

The only disappointment has been Tabraiz Shamsi, but the left-arm wrist-spinner’s first three overs in the T20 in Potchefstrooom on Friday hinted at a return to form.

One man who’s not been in the mix over the past few weeks is Chris Morris, but his performances for the Titans at the start of the season suggest he’s taken to heart the messages from Ottis Gibson.

He should come into consideration for the tour to Australia with his ‘all-rounder’ skills hopefully adding depth in the seam bowling all-rounder category, where Phehlukwayo and Wiaan Mulder have been given extended runs.

More concerning for the selectors has been South Africa’s batting.

No one has really stamped their authority in positions where Gibson and skipper Faf du Plessis feel there are holes.

At the top of the order, they’d like someone to show they can be a proper back-up to Hashim Amla and Quinton de Kock – and even slot in at No 3 – while in the middle-order, there is room for a back-up.

There are mitigating circumstances – some of the pitches for the recent matches against Zimbabwe haven’t allowed for easy strokeplay.

The Zimbabwean bowling deserves credit too; they’ve been accurate with the new ball, and in Brandon Mavuta, they have a good young leg-spinner.

In South Africa’s middle-order, Heinrich Klaasen has made a reasonable case for himself, scoring over 100 runs in the ODIs, including a half-century in the final match.

To Klaasen’s advantage is the fact he can bat almost anywhere in the order, and his wicket-keeping skills make him the ideal back-up were anything to happen to De Kock.

The top-order is less well stocked.

While Aiden Markram matched Klaasen’s aggregate in the ODIs, the selectors would have preferred some more output from him.

Dean Elgar also didn’t take advantage of the chance offered to him, while Reeza Hendricks has failed to build on his good start in the ODI side.

Du Plessis hinted after Friday night’s win in Potchefstroom in the second T20 that he was getting closer to the mix he wants as far as the batting is concerned.

“As a batting unit, we need to play together a little bit more, so I’m looking forward to Australia. I feel every game we are getting better and better,” said the South African captain.

The Proteas will play three ODIs and a T20 International Down Under next month.

“These T20 matches are teaching us a lot, even though it’s a different format,” Du Plessis added.

“A lot of guys are coming in, and while that can create headaches, if those guys take those opportunities, that can be really good.”

The final T20 against Zimbabwe will be played at Willowmoore Park in Benoni today (2.30pm start).

Du Plessis confirmed that in keeping with the side’s rotation policy, he will sit out the match, meaning there will most likely be a return for Christiaan Jonker.


Sunday Independent

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