In the absence of Dale Steyn for Thursday’s opening World Cup match against England, Ottis Gibson must pick Dwaine Pretorius over Chris Morris, writes KHALID MOHIDIN.
Decisions, decisions. Ottis Gibson and Faf du Plessis will have to make a difficult ruling come 30 May against England. Surprisingly for the first time in the last year, it’s the bowling unit that concerns the Proteas.
With Steyn not available, due to a nagging shoulder injury, to take advantage of the expected overcast swing-friendly conditions, the Proteas will have two paths mapped out for them. They could opt for the extra pace of Morris or trust the slow-to-medium pace of Pretorius.
Both are interesting options, but with England batting deep, the Proteas’ best options will be to skittle the opposition for a low total or to stem the run rate as much as possible in the middle overs. The latter strategy seems overwhelmingly more realistic.
Pretorius’ slow pace could make him an important asset to throttle England’s free-flowing run-scoring form by partnering up with Andile Phehlukwayo and trump card Imran Tahir. He can hold an end and frustrate the England batsmen, who lap up balls that come onto the bat quickly.
The English batting style is an off-shoot of the T20 approach, and we know that when looking to be aggressive, batsmen tend to provide opportunities to the fielding side, especially against spin and slower deliveries because they struggle to generate that extra boost of power to get the ball over the ropes.
Pretorius’ economy rate (4.88) and average (29.95) is significantly better than Morris’ (average: 40.42 and economy rate: 5.61). The latter hasn’t shown consistency when wearing the green and gold and enters the event as someone with a lot to prove.
Pretorius is capable of assisting the Proteas’ strike bowlers, as batsmen feel a need to score quick runs when the pressure starts building and the overs tick away. This desperation creates openings for the Proteas’ wicket-takers at the other end. Of course, any wicket he does pick up is a bonus.
If it’s pace you are looking for, sure, Morris can match Steyn, but consistently putting the ball in dangerous areas seems to be his downfall. If he misses his line and length, he will be punished. Playing him against England is a risk, seeing that he hasn’t had the best of IPL campaign and hasn’t played an ODI in over a year.
Ngidi and Rabada are the Proteas’ best opening pair without Steyn, which means Morris will have to be a first-change bowler. He needs to keep his economy low and take wickets to give the Proteas the best option to reduce England’s chances of setting or chasing a big total.
From a batting perspective they rule each other out, and with Morris being the slogger between the two, the Proteas could benefit more from having a calmer batting approach in case of a collapse, which Pretorius can provide.
There is a cheeky third option, and that is to play Tabraiz Shamsi, but that leaves the Proteas with just three seamers and an extremely long tail.
For those who suggest playing seven batsmen, the Proteas need to find bowlers who can combine to complete 50 overs. Part-time bowling options are too much of a risk, especially against England’s deep batting lineup.
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