Otis Gibson and Wiaan Mulder. Photo: Gerhard Duraan/BackpagePix

JOHANNESBURG -South Africa’s limited overs experimentation continued its expansion in Colombo on Thursday with some different combinations, a few different positions and even an unusual exclusion.

The South African public is being asked to buy all this while coach Ottis Gibson and the convener of the national selection panel, Linda Zondi, assess players and combinations for next year’s World Cup. They really tested the public’s patience last season when a series against India was virtually given away. 

The experimentation is expected to continue in Sri Lanka over the course of the five match ODI series that starts on Sunday, but there will need to be some explaining given some of the decisions made Thursday as the South Africans beat a local Board XI in the only warm-up match.

Heinrich Klaasen, according to the team’s spokesperson, did not play Thursday because he was being “rested” due to a tight groin. Other than training and carrying drinks, Klaasen’s not had much of a workload in Sri Lanka so would have been desperately disappointed that his groin let him down at a stage when he is desperate to prove his credentials.

As a result, South Africa had to get a little creative with the structure of their team; shifting Reeza Hendricks - an opener - to no.7, a position Klaasen will be targeting as he aims to build on the good case he made for himself against India last summer.

As it was, Hendricks equipped himself reasonably well in that unaccustomed position lower down the order, making 59 off 54 balls, striking eight boundaries in the process. In fact he was part of a vital rescue mission after South Africa’s top order - skipper Faf du Plessis aside - again battled to assert itself.

Two players who could have done with a ‘rest’ following their struggles in the Test matches; Quinton de Kock and Hashim Amla, made 0 and 16 respectively - their confidence is badly in need of re-building before the weekend. Aiden Markram, who also experienced plenty of problems in the Tests was slotted in at no.4 but lasted just one ball before being run out, leaving the tourists in an early hole against a side who’s bowling unit had very limited international experience.

Markram deserves a few more opportunities at no.4 as Zondi and Gibson try to fill the spot left vacant by AB de Villiers, but it may be prudent for them to give Dave Miller a chance there too at some stage. The left-hander is a prodigious finisher and the thinking maybe to leave him where he is most valuable for the side, but the extra responsibility higher up the order and the more time it may provide for him to play himself in could help to make him a more influential contributor. Perhaps that’s an experiment that will be tried at a later stage in the series.

Du Plessis’s 71 held the innings together initially until Miller (40), Hendricks and then Wiaan Mulder 56 (57b, 8x4) gave it some much needed impetus in the latter stages, helping the Proteas to post 293. Mulder made the biggest impression, adding three wickets with the ball to the half-century he scored with the bat further impressing the national coach who has made no secret of his fondness for the 20 year old all-rounder.

“It was match where if you stood out, you could put your name in the hat for the matches which are coming up and I was fortunate that I had a decent day in the field,” said Mulder. “Today was special for me, because that’s what you want to accomplish as an all-rounder, contribute in batting, bowling and fielding.”

Tabraiz Shamsi also picked up three wickets, while Keshav Maharaj bowled five overs but went wicketless. The first ODI against Sri Lanka will be played in Dambulla on Sunday.

IOL Sport

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