After a thrilling Test series, the two teams have switched gears and it’s time for South Africa’s new blood to step up and give England a run for their money, writes ANT SIMS.
If South Africa was hoping for time to bask in the glory of becoming the number one-ranked Test team in the world, the team was mistaken. Just four days after wrestling the Test mace from England’s claws, the two rivals are at it again. In fact, the Proteas started their preparations just two days after the Test series ended with a tour match against Gloustershire. There were a number of notable absentees, with only two Test players, namely Hashim Amla and Imran Tahir, forming part of the side.
According to coach Gary Kirsten, the plan was always to give some of the Test team a break, especially with so little time between games.
"The one-day series will certainly be tough with such a quick turnaround. My sense is to give the Test players as much of a break as we can, knowing that they have their match intensity well up,” said Kirsten.
The warm-up squad still managed a three-wicket win, despite some of the senior players being missing. Ryan McLaren impressed as he finished with match figures of 7.5-0-29-3. Wayne Parnell also chipped in with two wickets and 41 runs as the South Africans edged a nervy win over the resilient Gloucs team.
England will present a different challenge. After being so callously beaten and embarrassed on home turf, the current number-one ranked ODI team will surely want to prove that they are at least worthy of one title. They are also fresh off ODI-series wins against the West Indies and Australia. Kirsten admits that this will be an advantage, but hopes that the new faces making their way into the side will add fresh energy.
“England will have a little bit of an edge, having played recent series against West Indies and Australia, but we have quite a few young guys who are coming in and it'll help the people who have played in the Tests feed off their energy,” said Kirsten.
The five-match series begins in Cardiff on Friday, and South Africa has a whole host of relatively new faces joining the side. Dean Elgar, Wayne Parnell, Ryan McLaren and Faf du Plessis have all enjoyed solid stints with both the South African A team, under the guidance of Vincent Barnes, and their respective domestic franchises. For Kirsten, one-day cricket allows the team the opportunity to experiment, something South Africa needs to do in order to build a team for the future, as players like Jacques Kallis edge towards the end of their careers.
“Experimenting in one-day cricket and bringing young guys in is certainly part of our game plan, and we will use very opportunity we can to expose guys to international competition. One-day cricket is the perfect platform for that,” said Kirsten.
Kallis has been rested for the ODI series and the South African coach has made no bones about the reasons for the 36-year old’s absence.
“We have to manage Jacques Kallis appropriately now. He's aware and I'm aware that he simply can't play all the cricket he used to play anymore. It's too much, too taxing and it's too much of an ask. We want him to play in the World Cup T20 ,and this is the perfect opportunity to give him a break,” Kirsten admitted.
Even without Kallis, the ODI side still looks formidable, but South Africa will have to guard against complacency. When they won the Test series in England in 2008, they got hammered 4-0 in the one-day matches. With all the talk of absorbing pressure and overcoming pressure situations, Kirsten and his men now face another acid test – and how they come out on the other side will speak volumes for what the future holds.
Players to watch
Parnell has been erratic since he made his debut. One day he can fire, the next he’ll implode. His performances with the South African A team lately have been very impressive, though. In the recent four-day matches against Ireland, Parnell performed well, and now he has the chance to channel some consistency.
Stuart Broad has been omitted from the one-day side to focus on some conditioning training and take a bit of a break. Finn made a solid impact in the final Test at Lord’s and he’s been England’s best one-day bowler in the last year. In the absence of Broad, the young bowler will want to prove himself. While he does go for a few extra runs every over, Finn says it’s all part of the learning process for him. DM
Photo: South Africa's Imran Tahir (L) and Hashim Amla look over the dressing room balcony before a training session before their first one-day international cricket match against England at Sophia Gardens in Cardiff, Wales August 23, 2012. REUTERS/Philip Brown