JOHANNESBURG – South Africa’s bowlers have conceded 626 runs in the last 60 overs they’ve bowled – a scoring rate for the opposition of 10.43 runs an over. That is no way for an international bowling line-up to behave.
Sure the batting failed on Friday night at the Wanderers against Australia, and getting bowled out for 89 – South Africa’s lowest T20 International total – was embarrassing, but the batsmen had to be aggressive given the size of the target they were chasing. Also Australia’s bowlers were nowhere near as bad as South Africa’s, a fact acknowledged by the Proteas’ most experienced bowler.
“When you watched Australia bowl they were on the money. They bowled really straight, they bowled in the right place and showed us how to bowl in the first six (overs),” said Dale Steyn.
He was as guilty as his less experienced teammates of gifting the Australians too many – what Mark Boucher described as ‘cut balls’ in the first six overs. There were a few folks who misunderstood the South African head coach, thinking he’d said an Afrikaans version of rubbish – which would have been a more appropriate way to describe SA’s bowling on Friday night and indeed in the two previous T20s the team had played against England.
No one quite knows how to solve the problem. Boucher, Steyn and bowling coach Charl Langeveldt have all pointed out that there has been little time between matches to fix what’s wrong with South Africa’s bowling. That is one thing; it is quite another that South Africa’s bowlers seem to lack the ability to perform the basics.
In the second T20 match against England in Durban they bowled far too many ‘change-ups’ or off-speed balls. That seems to be their answer to every problem – perceived or real – on the field. Ahead of the deciding match against the English at SuperSport Park they spent time discussing bowling yorkers, then didn’t bowl them or missed when attempting to bowl them allowing England to chase down 223 with five balls to spare.
Again they discussed and then practised bowling yorkers in the build-up to the first T20 match against Australia and then in the match itself, bowled just one yorker in the first six overs.
The yorker is not the answer to all South Africa’s troubles with the ball, but the fact that the bowlers seem so reluctant to bowl it or execute it speaks to a stubborn mentality, because it can’t be down to skill, not for players who are internationals.
Today’s second T20 International in Port Elizabeth offers yet another chance to show they are learning lessons. Australia are a very powerful side and their batsmen don’t need the kinds of gifts the South Africans dished out on Friday night. Neither Mitchell Starc nor Pat Cummins had to really exert themselves at the Wanderers, so the Proteas shouldn’t expect the visitors’ potent new ball pair to slack off.
It’s up to the Proteas to improve. Steyn, just like Boucher, has again asked for patience. “This team’s going to be learning a lot more. Even though we are losing games, I feel the process Mark and Quinny put in place is the right one and we will prosper at some point.
“I don’t think we can get any worse – it’s just upward from now,” he added.
South Africa (from): Quinton de Kock (capt), Faf du Plessis, Rassie van der Dussen , David Miller Pite van Biljon, Dwaine Pretorius, Andile Phehlukwayo, Jon-Jon Smuts, Kagiso Rabada, Tabraiz Shamsi, Lungi Ngidi, Bjorn Fortuin, Anrich Nortjé, Dale Steyn, Heinrich Klaasen.
* Temba Bavuma’s hamstring will be assessed before play to determine if he can start.
Australia (from): Aaron Finch (capt), David Warner, Steve Smith, Alex Carey, Matthew Wade, D’Arcy Short, Mitchell Marsh, Ashton Agar, Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc, Jhye Richardson, Kane Richardson, Adam Zampa, Sean Abbott.