Proteas face selection poser


Injury to Philander means SA will have to rejig team for Windies clash

SOUTH Africa will ease many concerns if they beat West Indies in their World Cup clash at the Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG) on Friday, but they will have to do so without Vernon Philander.

The fast bowler has been ruled out with a strained hamstring and he could also miss the game against Ireland in Canberra on Tuesday.

“The Ireland match is eight days away,” SA team manager Mohammed Moosajee said yesterday. “With the recovery period being a week to 10 days, we have to give him every opportunity to make sure he can be available.

“At the same time, we don’t want to be foolish by taking shortcuts. We will go through the usual treatment protocols.

“If he passes all the fitness tests and is symptom-free going into the Ireland game he may play, but at this stage it is too early to tell.”

SA should have the beating of West Indies and Ireland with or without Philander. But they will need to take a long look at the balance of their team.

Philander bowled just four overs against India at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on Sunday before he limped off, and the impact of his absence was writ large on the scoreboard at the end of the innings.

After the last of Philander’s overs, the eighth of the innings, India were 29/1. After 50 overs, they were 307/7, a total big enough to help them inflict SA’s record loss at a World Cup, by 130 runs.

The natural swap for Philander would be Wayne Parnell, a fast bowler with significant batting ability. But, unlike the consistent Philander, Parnell is the epitome of mercurial. And his mercury plummeted on Sunday when he went for 85 in nine overs, the fourth most runs conceded by a SA bowler in ODIs.

Putting Kyle Abbott in Philander’s place is another possibility, but that would weaken the batting.

Australia have named at least two slow bowlers in their team for their last four ODIs at the SCG, so picking Aaron Phangiso as Imran Tahir’s spin twin is an idea worthy of consideration. However, SA’s tail would then be longer than they would like.

Tackling the equation from the other end would mean including Rilee Rossouw and finding bowlers to fill the gaps. With the Windies in fine batting form, that does not seem a sound option.

All of the above assumes that Farhaan Behardien, who was hit for 40 runs in five overs by Zimbabwe’s batsmen at Seddon Park in Hamilton on February 15 in SA’s first match of the tournament, will be back in the mix on Friday. What might Chris Gayle do to him?

Parnell would be the brave choice, Abbott the safest. With SA anxious not to compound Sunday’s errors, the smart money is on Abbott. But the best choice would be both, and no Behardien.

-Telford Vice

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