JOHANNESBURG - What can South Africa expect from a bowling unit likely to feature three players who haven’t played more than 10 Tests?
Captain Faf du Plessis is not sure. In fact by Thursday afternoon, he still wasn’t sure which combination he’d prefer on a pitch the home team believes/hopes will have more pace and bounce than was the case in the first Test against Bangladesh in Potchefstroom last week.
With Kagiso Rabada and home-town boy Duanne Olivier likely to take the new ball and Keshav Maharaj providing spin, two of Dane Paterson, Andile Phehlukwayo and Wayne Parnell will start.
“From a selection point of view, you want to make sure the venom in your attack is still there,” Du Plessis said. “With Morne (Morkel), KG, Dale (Steyn) and Vern (Philander) you know what to expect, but with those guys not there you’re not sure.”
Morkel is missing the second Test that starts on Friday after tearing an abdominal muscle while Steyn (shoulder) and Philander (back) are on the road to recovery and expect to be playing again soon.
It’s meant the selectors have had to cast the net wide to find replacements, with Paterson called up this week, but Du Plessis believes it’s the ideal time for younger bowlers to find their feet at the highest level.
“As a young bowler, and with no disrespect to Bangladesh, as you’re looking to start in Test cricket then playing against a batting line-up that’s not so strong in these conditions - you have room to make a few more mistakes and it’s a good opportunity to build confidence.”
Du Plessis continued to accentuate the positives, saying the absence of the country’s best seamers provided a chance for him to have a look at what else was out there in the seam bowling department.
“With the big players missing, especially against teams like Bangladesh, it’s important to see what your resources are. We’re very unlucky that we have four bowlers injured at the same time - we’ve never really faced a scenario like this. But for the first time I’m getting to see someone like (Patterson) with a red ball, that’s good for us to see what depth is out there.”
Du Plessis, who was critical about Philander’s conditioning at the end of the England tour, says the onus is on all the bowlers to improve their fitness as they get older. “Age is a factor,” he said by way of explaining the raft of injuries that has currently crippled South Africa’s seamers.
“Dale, Morne and Vern are all at that stage where your body starts having a few more niggles, then it becomes important to work harder. Morne’s a good example; he had a really bad back injury and the work he did behind the scenes for a year was a great example for the rest of the young guys. He came back and was at his best ever in England.
“Even as a batsman, I don’t rock up at the field and just run around. I need a 40-minute stretch just to get going, that’s just a part of getting a little bit older. Our bowlers do understand they possibly have to do a bit more than they are used to because when you bowl all those overs in your career, it will catch up to you.”
With a new and inexperienced attack, consistency is always a concern and Du Plessis has set that as the target for his side after their big win in the first Test.
“In this game it’s really important that we show that consistency ... for five days in Potch we were brilliant. That was the perfect game in Potch, it’s important that we follow that up here. That consistency is the excellence we are striving for.”
Meanwhile Bangladesh will be without experienced opener Tamim Iqbal for the second Test. Mushfiqur Rahim confirmed that Soumya Sarkar, a 24-year-old left-hand batsman would replace Tamim at the top of their order.