Proteas all-rounder Wayne Parnell believes he’s finally earned the right to call the opening bowler slot his own.
The battle between Niroshan Dickwella and Parnell was always going to be an evocative one. While Parnell took the fearless opener’s scalp in three of the four matches he played in January’s five-match ODI series, Dickwella dished out his fair share of rope-clearers.
The fifth ODI encapsulated everything about their battle. Dickwella hit Parnell for a six and a four of the first two balls of his spell, but by the end of the over, Parnell had his man. That 18-ball 39 highlighted the fact that Dickwella was the one man up for the fight on that disastrous tour of South Africa.
Indeed, he threatened to derail the Proteas in their Champions Trophy opener, and once again he attempted to make Parnell the scapegoat. Parnell went for 45 runs off his first five overs, with Dickwella involved in 23 of those runs off his first three overs.
We saw a bit of everything that we’ve come to expect from Parnell over the past two years – sometimes erratic, a tad unlucky, and occasionally effective. His last five overs went for just nine runs. While Imran Tahir took the plaudits for his 4-27, Parnell strangled the middle-order and tail as the required run rate became all too much.
‘It’s all about staying in the moment,’ Parnell tells SACricketmag.com. ‘Plans are in place but on a particular day a batsman might play differently to what you expect, so it’s about being smart.
‘Obviously I had 10 overs to complete and there were specific plans, and on the day he [Dickwella] was able to pull it off on the day. But the last five overs was all about what was needed to be done in the situation so I just stuck to my plans.’
In the absence of Dale Steyn and Kyle Abbott, the Proteas have been tinkering with a second new-ball bowler to accompany Kagiso Rabada. The likes of Chris Morris and Dwaine Pretorius have been tested, but Parnell has opened the bowling now in his last six matches.
The extent to which Parnell has been in and out of the side can be explained best by the fact that he was the leading wicket-taker in the 2009 Champions Trophy, despite his side’s group-stage exit. Just four matches into his international career, he proceeded to take 11 scalps from three matches.
Eight years after making his debut, it’s in the past 12 months where he’s seen himself improve to a standard that makes him feel that his selection is not up for debate.
‘There’s always going to be competition having four all-rounders,’ Parnell says, ‘but I don’t feel like my own form can be questioned. I feel pretty confident that over the past 12 months I’ve always taken wickets upfront.
‘Over the last 12 months I sat down with Russell to figure out how I could play more consistently. Over the last two years I’ve been on an upward curve, and its been more successful than not.’
He indeed has had a successful 2017 so far, with 18 wickets from 10 matches at an average of 25.61. His spell in the third ODI against England was impressive too, as his 3-43 contributed towards England stumbling to 20-6. The extent of his consistency will rest on whether he can continue to show the form that he presented in the last five overs of his spell against Sri Lanka on Saturday.
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