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Proteas need to solve troubles with ball and bat ahead of second Test

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After they’ve reflected on why they suffered two more batting collapses in the first Test against Pakistan, South Africa also need to consider how they can present more of a threat with the ball.

Should the Proteas consider Wiaan Mulder as a bowling option? Picture: Gerhard Duraan, BackpagePix

JOHANNESBURG – After they’ve reflected on why they suffered two more batting collapses in the first Test against Pakistan, South Africa also need to consider how they can present more of a threat with the ball.

In doing so the Proteas will have to ensure they don’t lose any balance as far as the starting line-up is concerned. Pakistan would have noted that the Proteas continue to struggle on dry surfaces that assist spin bowlers as they have done for the better part of the last decade when touring the subcontinent.

So while the pitch at the Rawalpindi Stadium, which will host the second Test starting on Thursday, traditionally favours seam bowling, it is unlikely that will be the case this time around. When Pakistan hosted Bangladesh at the same venue last year, the home team’s seam bowlers shared 13 Bangladeshi wickets between them.

However, Babar Azam’s side, which went into the Karachi Test under enormous pressure following a poor tour to New Zealand, with coach Misbah ul-Haq’s future in that role under scrutiny, paid attention to the template used effectively by India and Sri Lanka when they’ve hosted South Africa recently.

For all their traditional strengths as fast bowling pioneers, Pakistan is also desperate just to win against a team against which they’ve historically struggled. If that means groundsmen have to prepare dry turning tracks to help spin duo Yasir Shah and Nauman Ali, then so be it.

South Africa will need to look at the composition of their starting XI, with two areas to be talked about. The first is adding depth to the batting. In one sense they could just pick Keegan Petersen and drop a bowler, but that will add to the workload of the attack.

A simpler way would be to include Wiaan Mulder, and drop one of the seamers, most likely Lungi Ngidi. The 24-year-old fast bowler didn’t do a lot wrong in Karachi, but he bowled far fewer overs, 20, in that Test than the other quicks; Kagiso Rabada, who bowled 35 overs and Anrich Nortjé 34.

Ngidi was only called into the starting team at the last second after Tabraiz Shamsi picked up back spasms in warm-ups just before the toss.

The importance of having someone who naturally gets more revolutions on the ball was apparent from the threat posed by Pakistan’s leg-spinner Yasir. It was he who put doubts in the minds of the South

African batsmen and presumably the Proteas want to do the same to the Pakistani batsmen with Shamsi.

Shamsi, who is now fit, would come in for George Linde, who didn’t do much wrong, but only bowled 20 overs in the first Test, and is too similar to frontline spinner, Keshav Maharaj.

That doesn’t add depth to the batting. The Proteas may consider dropping Nortjé, and having Mulder operate as a second seamer, while picking all three spinners. With Linde and Mulder present, that stretches the batting down to nine.

That kind of selection would depend very much on conditions and go against South Africa’s traditional strengths with the ball, which even in the subcontinent has been led by quick bowlers.

However any tinkering with the bowling unit, is nowhere near as important as getting the batting department in proper working order. South Africa badly need to fix problems with the bat that have beset the side regardless of conditions.

Nevermind losing wickets in clusters, the Proteas have developed the habit of complete self destruction with the bat – one wicket doesn’t bring two, rather it consistently brings seven or eight.

If that happens in Rawalpindi, they will lose the series 2-0.

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