Wiaan Mulder makes his mark for Proteas
PRETORIA – Wiaan Mulder was a somewhat surprising selection to start the first Test against Sri Lanka, but the manner in which he played will have raised his self-belief, while also ticking another box for the Proteas as a whole.
For now that box has been ticked with a 2H pencil rather than an HB or a pen. It’s still early days, just one Test match. However it was mighty impressive, particularly the effort with the ball on the fourth morning. In sticky, humid conditions, Mulder bowled nine overs unchanged from the West Lane End, relentlessly attacking the Sri Lankan batsmen, not giving them much room and getting the ball to nip around.
Even asking him to bowl first on Tuesday morning was a surprise. Anrich Nortje, the quickest of the Proteas or even the debutant Lutho Sipamla, who so smartly finished off the Sri Lankans in the first innings, were the more likely candidates to start with the ball, but Quinton de Kock chose Mulder and it worked.
The endurance part of the spell seemed to catch even De Kock off guard. He’d asked Sipamla to warm-up, with an eye on replacing Mulder after six overs, but Mulder kept creating opportunities and then took the wicket of Niroshan Dickwella, having earlier had him dropped by the captain.
Mulder finished the match with five wickets, with his bowling ‘out performing’ his batting, although his innings of 36 contained plenty of good strokeplay.
What South Africa are hoping for is that Mulder – initially at least as he grows into the international arena – can fill the seam bowling all-rounder spot that was left vacant by Vernon Philander’s retirement last summer.
Philander’s bowling was his forte, but his batting was a lot better than he was given credit for, while Mulder is viewed as a ‘batting all-rounder.’
Ultimately however, the South African team will probably want to see Mulder shift from his current spot at no.7 to no.5 in the order and take on more responsibility with the bat, while still being capable of bowling 15 overs per day.
The challenge for Mulder is, as his franchise coach, Wandile Gwavu suggested before the first Test, that he has to learn to trust his body following a spate of injuries that have blighted his professional career.
That Mulder bowled 32 overs will be a huge boon for him personally and De Kock as his captain. “His talent speaks for itself,” said De Kock. “Wessie (Mulder’s from the West Rand) showed what he’s about. It was nice to see a youngster coming through like that and playing with so much maturity.”