Time for Proteas to look at Parnell
PORT ELIZABETH: Russell Domingo must be feeling a bit like Old Mother Hubbard. He goes to his all-rounder cupboard every time, only to get there and the cupboard is bare.
It is an irritation that has plagued Domingo’s coaching tenure ever since the legendary Jacques Kallis gave up on his World Cup dream after the ODI tour to Sri Lanka in 2014.
In fact, Domingo had even considered shifting Kallis from his regular No 3 batting spot to lower down the order to lengthen his career as a “bowling all-rounder”.
But when that plan came to nought and Kallis called time on his illustrious career, Domingo experimented with all of Ryan McLaren, Wayne Parnell, Farhaan Behardien, Chris Morris, David Wiese and Albie Morkel in a bid to solve the all-rounder crisis in the ODI team.
McLaren and Parnell have arguably been the most successful, with both having been assets with the ball on occasion. However, neither has been able to offer any form of consistency with the bat, which has forced Domingo to place his faith in Behardien, who is much more of a batsman than a bowler.
Berhardien’s limited bowling experience – he doesn’t even bowl for the Titans in franchise cricket – along with fellow “all-rounder” JP Duminy’s gradual loss of bowling form is severely restricting captain AB de Villiers’ options in the field at the moment.
The problems facing Domingo and De Villiers are being shown up even more by an England side that have an abundance of all-rounders.
And unlike English teams of the past that relied on “dibbly-dobblers” who also held a bat on the county circuit to fill up their ODI team, these are genuine strike bowlers – either pace or spin – who wield the willow with the same amount of ferocity as anybody else in the top order.
Proteas video analyst Prasanna Agoram is most likely already tired of reviewing footage in the team strategy meetings about the influence that England maverick Ben Stokes has on the outcome of matches.
There hasn’t been a game that has gone by in which the ginger-haired Stokes has not had a significant impact in either discipline. There have been numerous occasions throughout the summer where just when South Africa have been looking to gain the ascendancy, Stokes made a pivotal intervention.
Although Chris Jordan’s athleticism played a large role in De Villiers’ dismissal in PE on Saturday, which was ultimately the difference between South Africa posting something closer to 300 than the eventual 262, the bowler was, of course, that man Stokes.
There’s no doubt that the 25-year-old does possess an inordinate amount of skill, but Stokes is also playing within an environment that is conducive to him expressing that “X-factor”.
England coach Trevor Bayliss and his assistant Paul Farbrace allow Stokes the freedom to go out and “see ball, hit ball”, even when they know he will sometimes be dismissed playing the reverse-sweep to Imran Tahir with the match still in the balance.
With the all-rounder conundrum basically holding South Africa back from moving into a new era, the time might have arrived to revisit what Parnell can offer the Proteas.
Many believe the 26-year-old – he is still that young – has wasted too many opportunities to nail down a permanent spot in the Proteas side over the course of his seven-year international career, but Parnell remains one of the few cricketers in the country who can be viewed as a genuine strike bowler who is also adept with bat in hand.
The apprehension around Parnell is also due to his poor fitness record – he has only just returned from a nagging groin injury – and the fear is always that he may be too much of a risk in first-class cricket, where the ability to come back for second and third spells is essential.
However, Parnell has shown in the shorter formats for the Cape Cobras that he is a valuable asset rather than a liability.
It would be really interesting to see how Parnell would fare within a set-up that wholeheartedly supports his talents, and one that understands and has the patience to deal with the occasional off-days.
With Albie Morkel injured and Wiese only added for the first two ODIs, there is an opportunity for the Proteas selection panel to recall Parnell to provide some much-needed inspiration for the three remaining matches.
These are all must-win encounters for the Proteas if they wish to keep intact their proud record of not having lost a Test and ODI series at home in 14 years.
Captain De Villiers certainly thinks his team still have the ability to bounce back, starting at SuperSport Park in Centurion on Tuesday.
“England are a good side. They are playing some good cricket at the moment, they look confident but they are not unbeatable,” he said after the St George’s Park defeat.
“We had a couple of opportunities in both the games we played, and I know it sounds like I am singing the same song from the Test matches but it’s true, it’s a matter of getting it right and taking our opportunities.
“In Bloemfontein we had a chance to get it right – I knew that rain was going to come and we didn’t get the timing right. Again, we had the opportunity to take them down, and unfortunately it didn’t happen that way.”@IndyCapeSport