Former Proteas spinner PAT SYMCOX says the selectors should reward form over reputation and retain Duanne Olivier for the Newlands Test.
South Africa enjoyed a really good win over Pakistan in the first Test at Centurion. The fact that the victory was achieved inside two-and-a-half days is no mean feat, and you can’t ask for more than that.
Dale Steyn broke Shaun Pollock’s record and became the leading South African Test wicket-taker. However, even more importantly, he showed that he can bowl for long spells and get through Test matches. Steyn is a champion, but in our haste to compliment him it’s easy to understate the outstanding performance from Duanne Olivier. Olivier was a real bonus find that snuck in under the radar while everyone was entirely focused on how good Steyn and Kagiso Rabada were going to be.
I am pleased for Olivier because he has been something of a yo-yo man. He now probably feels that he has done enough to warrant selection for the second Test at Newlands. For me, Olivier is the man in possession and if you want to take his place, you have to go out and prove that you can bowl better than he is doing at the moment. As much as I love the bowling of Vernon Philander, who boasts a great record at Newlands, I wouldn’t drop a man who has just taken 11 wickets in a match.
There is a school of thought that Olivier only played because Philander was injured, but cricket has a long history of players taking their opportunities and never looking back. My line of thinking is: Olivier has to bowl badly before he can be dropped. You can’t say Philander is in form, because he has been injured. If Philander comes in, doesn’t bowl well and South Africa end up enduring a poor Test match, what do you do then?
There is also talk of dropping the spinner and playing the extra seamer. The easy option would be to drop Keshav Maharaj and not have to make a decision on either Olivier or Philander. In the past, the fall guy has been the spinner because selectors couldn’t make up their minds. It comes back to the old story where your spinner becomes your in-and-out man. I don’t believe that is a good idea, but it’s something that the selectors will need to work out.
Newlands is not as sporty a wicket as Centurion and I’m sure they will want the game to last more than two-and-a-half days. Especially, if you are one up, you really don’t need to have sporty wickets. Pakistan have really got to come out and make the play in order to level the series, so why provide a pitch where the toss could decide a match?
To be honest, I didn’t think winning the toss and batting first was a good start for Pakistan in the three-match series. Pakistan’s strength lay in their bowling and their batting was an unknown quantity. By batting first, they gave the super-strong South African bowling outfit the opportunity to get them into trouble early and put them on the back foot.
As bad as it was, I really don’t think Pakistan should look too much into the loss. I’m sure Mickey Arthur would have said post-match, ‘Let’s forget about this Test and move on because it’s pointless looking back on it. It was our first one in South African conditions and we were rusty.’
Mickey would also like to move on from the incident which has seen him receive an official warning and one demerit point for breaching the ICC code of conduct during the third day’s play in the opening Test.
Having been his captain at Griqualand West, as well as the best man at his wedding, I know that Mickey is not confrontational and doesn’t have an aggressive type of personality. It was totally out of character and shows you how frustrated he was with Dean Elgar being adjudged not out by the TV umpire. He probably let himself down a little bit and needs to stay focused on what he is trying to do, as opposed to getting involved in that kind of nonsense because it’s not going to serve any purpose.
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