The South African attack needs to find form in Australasia over the next two months.
Recent results indicate that everything is well on Planet Protea. Over the past four months, they’ve scored a momentous ODI series win in Sri Lanka, thumped the hapless Zimbabweans, and humbled the fearsome Australians.
They’re expected to win the series in New Zealand, as well as the series in Australia thereafter. That accomplished, the Proteas will head into the 2015 World Cup with momentum and confidence.
It’s possible that this prediction will come to pass, and that these results will once again depend on the feats of their formidable batting line-up. If that was to be the case, the Proteas would have gained very little from this dress rehearsal for the World Cup,.
Russell Domingo will expect his batsmen to carry that momentum into the series against New Zealand and Australia, and will want a greater contribution from the likes of David Miller. The Proteas coach recently spoke about the team as a settled combination, and it is a statement that is true up to point.
Indeed, while the batting unit has fired in recent months, the same cannot be said of the bowling attack.
When Jacques Kallis returned to the ODI side in late 2013, it was understood that he would be given as much time as possible to regain his form. Now that South Africa’s Great One has retired, the Proteas are tasked with filling a large void in short space of time. And as recent team performances confirm, Kallis’s absence is being felt more keenly in the bowling department than anywhere else.
Dale Steyn is the best bowler in world cricket, and arguably one of the greatest competitors to have played the game. And yet, it’s become evident that the Proteas will need more that Steyn’s fire and individual brilliance to win that elusive trophy in Australasia next year. It’s also possible that they will have to do without their spearhead completely, as Steyn is at that age where fast bowlers are more susceptible to injuries and break down regularly.
We’re now less than four months away from the start of the World Cup, and Domingo is still searching for answers to the same questions that were asked at the start of his tenure. Can the Proteas fill the void left by Kallis? Can anybody lead the attack in Steyn’s absence? Can the bowling attack fire consistently as a unit?
The importance of this tour cannot be understated. It’s a big one for the likes Of Morné Morkel, Vernon Philander, and the rest of the South African bowlers who will want to make a statement before the global tournament. What better place to make that statement than in the countries where the competition will take place?
The problem facing the Proteas, particularly on the New Zealand leg of the tour, is that so many of their frontline bowlers are returning from injuries. Morkel, Wayne Parnell and JP Duminy have all struggled with niggles in recent months, while Ryan McLaren only recently recovered from a broken arm. Philander missed the Zimbabwe series due to hamstring problem, and wouldn’t have gained much confidence after a wayward performance in the Champions League. Is it fair to expect the Proteas to fire in New Zealand, individually or as a unit?
Perhaps not. Perhaps it will take some time for the bowlers to readjust, and then to gel as a unit. Perhaps we will only see what this attack is truly capable of when they team heads to Australia in November. What is for certain is that time is running short to get things right.
The Proteas batsmen performed well in Sri Lanka and Zimbabwe, and the challenge from hereoin in is to maintain that high standard. The bowlers, however, have some catching up to do.