Anrich Nortje’s injury-enforced absence gives the Proteas an opportunity to field one of a clutch of really good fast-bowling options. RYAN VREDE evaluates them and picks his man.
News that an injury has forced Nortje out of the three-Test series was devastating. He has played just 12 Tests, but has already established himself in the side and is widely considered one of the best fast bowlers in the format.
His tactical versatility will be missed. Nortje was able to take the new nut, come on at the first change, as well as bowl quickly and, where conditions allowed, reverse swing the old ball. His ability to wrestle the momentum away from the opposition in this period made him a potent weapon and critically important cog in the Proteas’ bowling machine.
He will be missed. However, there is no shortage of talented alternatives.
MOST LIKELY: Duanne Olivier
The form fast bowler in South African domestic cricket and the man most likely to replace Nortje. Olivier has taken 28 wickets in four-day domestic cricket at an insane economy of 2.88 and a strike-rate of 23.1.
He has taken childish hits from those who questioned his patriotism for signing a Kolpak deal and saying that he would like to play Test cricket for England. He felt compelled to apologise for saying that, but only those who lack emotional maturity would disregard the context he was speaking in.
Form should always be a primary criterion for selection, and Olivier has loads of it.
OUTSIDE CHANCE: Glenton Stuurman
Stuurman took two wickets less than Sipamla in that India A series but did bowl 27 overs fewer.
His skill and control will give the Proteas variety in their attack, but they are likely to want to subject India to an examination by fire on bouncing and seaming wickets.
Stuurman is likely to lose out because of his lack of pace relative to the other contenders.
WON’T PLAY: Sisanda Magala
Magala has been very good in domestic cricket, taking 15 wickets in 57 overs at a better strike-rate than Olivier. However, he is behind a handful of fast bowlers who edge him in key areas.
VREDE’S PICK: Marco Jansen
This kid looks special. I watched him in the India A series and was impressed by his speed, discipline, skill and intelligence with the ball.
He is 21 and in the infancy of his career, but appears far more mature than that. Being a lefty aids his cause for selection, given that it adds variety to an attack that would otherwise have a sameness about it.
His value extends to him being highly competent with the bat. He averaged 63 against India A and showed touches of class that suggests there’s gold to be mined in this facet of his game.
The Proteas are up against a world-class India attack, and batting deep is essential if they hope to compete against the World Test Championship finalists.
Jansen allows them to do this.