JOHANNESBURG – With the ODI series in Sri Lanka now wrapped up, and in the most comprehensive fashion, South Africa can properly ramp up the squad rotation and experimentation that is supposed to be the feature of this period leading up to the 2018/19 season and then the World Cup.
To be fair to the selectors, the squad in Sri Lanka is largely experimental and the bowling unit in particular very inexperienced. That aspect of South Africa’s side has been largely successful given the number of rookies and when it’s considered that Dale Steyn, Vernon Philander, Imran Tahir and Chris Morris still need to be factored into the equation, the national selectors find themselves with a wide range of choices from which to pick the team in the months ahead.
For the remaining week of the tour, it would thus be prudent to rest Kagiso Rabada, who really has nothing left to prove and has fulfilled his task superbly in the opening three games of the series, bowling with pace and venom on pitches slightly more tailored to his talents than was the case in the Test matches.
South Africa have Junior Dala waiting in the wings and in combination with fellow Titans player Lungi Ngidi, they would make a solid new ball pair, with Dala a slightly different proposition than Ngidi and Rabada, in that instead of bounce he gets the ball to skid onto the batsman.
Keshav Maharaj must now be over the physical exertion that was his performance in the second Test when he bowled 81 overs in two and half days, and deserves a run to show what he has to offer in the one-day side. That is in no way harsh on Tabraiz Shamsi, who has played very well throughout the tour and has put himself squarely in the frame for World Cup consideration.
Beyond personnel it may be worth the selectors while to experiment with the structure of the team too and see how it may operate with two frontline spinners - it may be unlikely to be used at a World Cup in England but there is no harm anymore in gathering some data from that experiment.
If it happens, Wiaan Mulder is most likely to sit out. The young all-rounder has done his World Cup chances no harm in Sri Lanka, but perhaps what’s best for him at this stage - given the number of other vastly more experienced players that fulfill similar roles - is to use this series as a platform for a long international career.
Andile Phehlukwayo is a thrilling cricketer; willing to try just about anything with bat and ball and given his prowess as a ‘death’ player needs to be provided with every opportunity to feel the pressure of batting and bowling at the end of the innings.
It’s South Africa’s batting where things will get interesting for the last two matches.
Do they recall Aiden Markram, and where does he slot in, at opener or No 3? Reeza Hendricks’ magnificent performance in the third match of the series, means he deserves to play the remaining two games and it’s probably right that Markram get a chance again, most likely ahead of Hashim Amla.
Faf du Plessis, was ruled out of the remainder of the tour yesterday because of the injury he incurred to his a right shoulder while diving for a catch in the third ODI. Du Plessis’s absence will open up a spot for Heinrich Klaasen, who given his performances against India last summer is deserving of another look.
The bowlers have shown on this tour that inexperience need not be allowed to limit performances, and the young batsmen in the side should follow suit. Besides, in Quinton de Kock, JP Duminy and David Miller, there is a trio of seasoned campaigners who, especially in the case of Duminy and De Kock, are in excellent form.
Tomorrow’s match starts at 11am.