JOHANNESBURG – Faf du Plessis reiterated Thursday that the Proteas were still looking for the right balance for the starting XI as they aim to wrap up the series against Australia in the second ODI at the Adelaide Oval.
The question of balance for the South African captain is not so much to do with the series in Australia - which the Proteas lead 1-0 after a thumping six-wicket win in the first matchlast Sunday - but the World Cup in England next year.
“We are a team that is finding its feet in terms of balance; we’ve got the right kind of cricketers, players with the right skill, the things that’s been a challenge for us in the last year has been to find the perfect balance,” Du Plessis said in Adelaide on Thursday.
The Proteas have taken three seam bowling all-rounders to Australia; Andile Phehlukwayo, Chris Morris and Dwaine Pretorius, with Phehlukwayo getting the nod in the first match and taking advantage of bowling behind Dale Steyn Lungi Ngidi and Kagiso Rabada to pick up three wickets.
In many ways that performance in Perth was the blue-print for how Du Plessis wants South Africa to play in the 50-over format, but he’s aware that at some point his batsmen will be tested, particularly the player who occupies that no.7 spot.
“We are either, I feel, a little light on the bowling or a little light on the batting. That happens when you lose a high quality all-rounder, who can fill both positions. It’s the same with Test cricket - we are looking for that no.7 batsman who can play as a fourth seamer.”
“If you are playing with three quicks like we are, then your no.7 needs to score some big runs as well and we are trying to find who’s the best guy available,” said Du Plessis.
He hinted at possible changes to the starting XI for the second match, reiterating once more the importance of giving players chances with the World Cup in mind. “Given how well we played we are tempted to play the same team but we are also conscious of constantly giving guys either more experience for the World Cup or fine-tuning that balance (to the starting team).”
Conditions at the Adelaide Oval will determine whether South Africa pick Tabraiz Shamsi as an additional frontline spinner, but that really only should be the case if conditions are extreme. If South Africa need added overs from a spinner, Aiden Markram has shown he’s good enough for a few overs.
Australia meanwhile is awaiting clarity on Shaun Marsh’s fitness after he had an operation to remove an abscess from his bum. “He was very confident that he can get up and play,” said Australian skipper Aaron Finch. Should Marsh be fit, he’d slot in at no.3 with D’Arcy Short likely to be dropped.
Leg-spinner Adam Zampa is also likely to start as Australia seek to balance their attack.
Meanwhile Finch added that the various departures at board level in Cricket Australia had left a few doubts in players minds.
On Wednesday Cricket Australia’s high performance manager Pat Howard stepped down just hours after the general manager for broadcasting, digital media and commercial, Ben Amarfio was marched out of CA’s headquarters in Melbourne. Last week Cricket Australia’s chairman David Peever resigned while director and former captain Mark Taylor also stood down from the board in the wake of a damning review of the organisation’s culture.
“For me personally, I don’t think it affected me in terms of my preparation or my performance,” said Finch. “You might spend a little bit of time reading it, and putting some kind of doubts in your mind at times.
But I think it’s about each individual being 100% committed to their plans and doing whatever the team needs to get the job done.”
The second ODI starts at 5.20am SA time on Friday.
The squads are:
Australia: Aaron Finch (c), Josh Hazlewood (vc), Alex Carey (vc), Ashton Agar, Nathan Coulter-Nile, Pat Cummins, Travis Head, Chris Lynn, Shaun Marsh, Glenn Maxwell, Ben McDermott, D'Arcy Short, Marcus Stoinis, Mitchell Starc, Adam Zampa
South Africa: Faf du Plessis (c), Farhaan Behardien, Quinton de Kock, Reeza Hendricks, Imran Tahir, Heinrich Klaasen, Aiden Markram, David Miller, Chris Morris, Lungi Ngidi, Andile Phehlukwayo, Dwaine Pretorius, Kagiso Rabada, Tabraiz Shamsi, Dale Steyn.