Proteas look to fine-tune squad
Tricky one-day series kicks off at St George’s Park
South Africa begin their quest to fine-tune their World Cup cricket squad with a tricky five-match one-day series against Pakistan starting at St George’s Park in Port Elizabeth on Saturday (1pm).
From what Faf du Plessis said at his pre-match presser on Friday, one could almost predetermine the majority of the starting lineup.
A top six of Quinton de Kock‚ Hashim Amla‚ Reeza Hendricks‚ Faf du Plessis‚ JP Duminy and David Miller look to be shoo-ins at this stage, though Aiden Markram and Rassie van der Dussen may still have something to say about that during this series and the next.
From a bowling point of view there is no doubt Dale Steyn, Kagiso Rabada, Lungi Ngidi and Imran Tahir will be first choices.
That leaves one spot open in the first 11 for an allrounder and Proteas coach Ottis Gibson has made it clear before that the team is looking for a batting allrounder so that South Africa can play their three quicks.
“It’s an answer we are hoping to give after this series,” Du Plessis told a media gathering on Friday.
“We are hoping that certainly over the next five games, and maybe the next 10, including five against Sri Lanka, that of the allrounders Wihan Mulder, Andile Phehlukwayo, Chris Morris and Dwaine Pretorius at least one, maybe two of them, put their hand up and shout at the selectors ‘pick me’.”
Phehlukwayo and Pretorius are in the squad for the first two games against Pakistan so they will look to take advantage of an early opportunity starting on Saturday.
“We are still trying to find the balances in our team with Quinny [Quinton de Kock] and Dale not here in the first two games. It actually gives us an opportunity to look at whatever else we need to look at.”
Du Plessis further explained the next 10 ODIs would be a chance to look at the back-up fast bowlers so that the team had cover in the event of injury to the top three. He said even Warriors fast bowler Anrich Nortje still had a look-in.
“From a brains trust point of view we are continuously looking for X-factor players in the sense of our bowling attack. So Lungi, Dale, KG are fantastic seamers and they pick themselves. But possible as a back-up seamer we have some nice pace bowlers in our country.
“Duanne Olivier, even Anrich Nortje, who bowled very well in the Mzansi Super League, is still someone we are also looking at. [Dane] Paterson is a different kind of bowler, he’s more of a swing bowler.”
The Proteas skipper is all too aware that Pakistan will be up for a fight in the white-ball matches and he will be after a quick start to the series.
“Obviously, the Test series went very well but Pakistan are a very good one-day side. They would be the first to say from a performance point of view their one-day side is much stronger.
“It will be a nice challenge for us. They were the ICC Champions Trophy winner last year.”
SA leg-spinner Imran Tahir will be looking forward to a rare opportunity to shine against the country of his birth, though he will know all too well how adept Pakistani batsmen are at playing the turning ball.
South Africa: Faf du Plessis (capt), Hashim Amla, Aiden Markram, Reeza Hendricks, Imran Tahir, Heinrich Klaasen (wkt), David Miller, Dane Paterson, Andile Phehlukwayo, Dwaine Pretorius, Kagiso Rabada, Tabraiz Shamsi, Duanne Olivier, Rassie van der Dussen.
Pakistan: Sarfaraz Ahmed (capt), Babar Azam, Faheem Ashraf, Fakhar Zaman, Hasan Ali, Hussain Talat, Imad Wasim, Imam-ul-Haq, Mohammad Amir, Mohammad Hafeez, Mohammad Rizwan, Shadab Khan, Shaheen Afridi, Shan Masood, Shoaib Malik, Usman Shinwari.
Umpires: Allahudien Paleker (SA) and Gregory Brathwaite (WI)
TV umpire: Paul Reiffel (Aus)
Reserve umpire: Bongani Jele (SA)
Match referee: Ranjan Madugalle (SL)..