Another day‚ another fast bowler down.
One of these fine mornings, Proteas captain Faf du Plessis and coach Ottis Gibson might draw back their curtains in trepidation. Which of their dwindling supply of quicks‚ they will wonder‚ will be removed from the equation that day?
On Monday, that fast bowler was Morné Morkel‚ who has been ruled out for up to six weeks with a side strain.
Bustling Cobras fast bowler Dane Paterson‚ 28‚ has been called up to replace Morkel. Paterson does not own a Test cap, but he has played four T20s for the country.
On Sunday in Potchefstroom, Morkel pulled up during his sixth over in Bangladesh’s second innings.
A dark smudge of déjà vu followed him off the field. He already had the wickets of Tamim Iqbal and Mominul Haque in his pocket when‚ with his 14th delivery‚ he produced an inswinger that sniped between Mushfiqur Rahim’s bat and pad. It crashed into the top of middle stump‚ a thing of highlights packages for months to come.
What’s the déjà vu? Bangladesh’s captain was two-thirds of the way to the boundary when the big screen showed Morkel had overstepped to extend to 14 his world record for being denied Test wickets by no-balls.
Morkel’s fate was indeed cruel‚ given that he was in the throes of a torrid spell that said the mantle of leading the attack sat well on his broad shoulders.
He inherited it from Vernon Philander‚ who took it from Dale Steyn. Both Philander and Steyn are injured. So are Chris Morris and Lungi Ngidi. Not to put too fine a point on it‚ what the hell is going on?
"I know I’m going to sound really old-fashioned but you get hard and fit as a bowler by bowling‚" the former Proteas seamer Craig Matthews said.
"You can over-bowl people, but you can also under-bowl people. Fast bowling is … a dangerous profession‚ but you’ve got to put the work in," he said.
Since SA’s tour to England ended in the first week of August‚ and going into the first Test‚ Morkel had bowled 54 overs in three T20s and a first-class match for a World XI and the Titans. Enough? Too few? Too many?
The line between too much or too little rest and too much or too little work seems damnably fine. But Gibson and the rest of SA’s management team will have to get a grip on it.
Wayne Parnell‚ a surprise selection in the squad for the series, given that he has played only two Tests in the past seven years‚ is just back from a spell on the sidelines himself. Suddenly, he is central to SA’s plans for the second Test in Bloemfontein‚ which starts on Friday.
Ditto Duanne Oliver‚ who took 1/52 and 0/12 from the 16.4 overs he bowled in Potch‚ and Andile Phehlukwayo‚ who was entrusted with only seven overs in both innings. Phehlukwayo finished with 1/18.
You would be forgiven for doubting whether an attack staffed largely by Parnell‚ Olivier and Phehlukwayo could get the job done in Bloemfontein‚ even allowing for the brittle batting
Happily for SA‚ Kagiso Rabada seems to be emerging from the funk he has been in for 14 innings since he took 6/55 against Sri Lanka at Newlands in January — the last time he claimed five wickets.
Rabada took 2/84 and 3/83 in Potchefstroom‚ but the flames of his fire flickered higher and brighter than they have done for many months.
Thank the gods‚ then‚ for Keshav Maharaj‚ who hits the road to Bloem with a match haul of 7/117. The left-arm spinner‚ who was easily SA’s most threatening bowler once Morkel exited, seems certain to be the trump card in the second Test‚ given the likely conditions.
SA‚ playing at home‚ depending on a spinner to beat a side from the subcontinent? Now there’s a day to draw the curtains back to see.