SA still searching for the perfect ODI team

JOHANNESBURG – Lungi Ngidi, Chris Morris, Beuran Hendricks, Dale Steyn and Kagiso Rabada were all at the Proteas practice yesterday morning ahead of the third One-Day International against Pakistan today.

One could be forgiven for thinking South Africa were showing off – “hey, look here at all the fast bowlers we have.”

In truth, a couple – Morris and Ngidi – are injured, but it was still some show of strength that would be the envy of many other nations. Ngidi bowled a few balls in the net the South Africans set up adjacent to the pitch that will be used for today’s third ODI.

The brace he was wearing recently has been removed and he bowled without any outward signs of discomfort. He will be back for the series’s against Sri Lanka.

Quite where Morris sits as far as selection is concerned at the moment is a mystery.

Had it not been for an injury picked up playing for the Titans in the domestic four-day competition, he may have been a candidate for the last three matches of this series. Now his best hope lies with performing well in the T20 series that starts next Friday.

Faf Du Plessis explained yesterday that ideally he and the selectors would have liked to utilise this five match ODI series with Pakistan – which is currently locked at 1-1 – as a tune up for the World Cup.

He, typically, put a positive spin on that: “Lungi’s injury opened a slight gap to allow us to look at who might be the next guy.”

fafduplessis - SA still searching for the perfect ODI team
Faf du Plessis and the selectors want to use this five match ODI series with Pakistan as a tune up for the World Cup. Photo: Michael Sherman (ANA)

With Ngidi, Steyn and Rabada effectively cemented as starters in South Africa’s main XI that “next guy” would fall into the category as back-up seamer in the 15-man squad that will go to the World Cup. Duanne Olivier was given his chance in the first two matches of the series, but has now been told to rest up ahead of Sri Lanka’s tour here, giving left-arm seamer Beuran Hendricks an opportunity to impress the selectors.

Dane Paterson was also looked at in Durban, but has been sent back to his franchise.

“We’d like to see what he does up front with the new ball. We are looking for a bowler who can take wickets at any stage in the innings, Beuran also has that variety, which is useful in the middle overs and of course he’s also good at the ‘death’.”

Besides the back up seamer, Du Plessis, coach Ottis Gibson and the selectors are also looking at an extra batsmen for the squad and the second all-rounder. Tabraiz Shamsi has already secured the second spinner spot behind Imran Tahir.

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Although it’s been recognised as the one position over which there is the most doubt, Du Plessis said knowing who the main candidates were for the No 7 all-rounder spot did make the search a bit easier. As did Andile Phehlukwayo’s performance in the second ODI, where he picked up four wickets and scored an unbeaten 69 to see the Proteas home after a wobbly start.

“Andy played really well in the previous game, you have to give him another opportunity,” said Du Plessis. And therein lies their other challenge with the all-rounder trials – giving sufficient chances to all the candidates in the remaining eight ODIs this summer.

South Africa tried playing both Phehlukwayo and Dwaine Pretorius in the same starting team last Saturday in Port Elizabeth but that upset the style Du Plessis wants to implement – an aggressive attacking approach with the ball, where there is a wicket-taker operating throughout the innings.

“Over the course of the remainder of the series and the five games against Sri Lanka, there’s the possibility to look at the others and then make a decision based on that.”

Today’s third ODI starts at 1pm.


The Star

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