South Africa’s bowlers struggled with conceding extras during their recent ODI series in Australia. Considering they have a whole coach dedicated to the craft of bowling, what on earth is he actually doing? By ANTOINETTE MULLER.
Pointing fingers and singling out individuals when it comes to losing isn’t exactly ideal in a team sport. But, in cricket, individual errors often stand out like a sore thumb. For South Africa, one of the most glaring individual errors during the series against Australia was the extras conceded in the series.
The issue got progressively worse as the series went along and, by the end of the five matches, South Africa’s quicker bowlers had conceded 43 extras between them. Morne Morkel was the biggest sinner with 12 extras in total, followed by Ryan McLaren with 10 extras. It was something that captain AB de Villiers acknowledged as an issue after the loss.
“Very difficult to comment on that (the inconsistency). It’s just unacceptable. I don’t know what to say to that. It shouldn’t happen. It’s just not good enough. It’s never been a problem, we never bowled that amount of no-balls in a series, nowhere near that, it’s cost us badly. It’s probably up to some of the coaches to assist in that. I’m not sure about bowling techniques and the dos and don’ts. We must work on it and make sure it doesn’t happen again,” said De Villiers.
The captain, however, doth protest a little too much. During the recently concluded ODI tri-series in Zimbabwe, there were 33 extras in total from the quicks, with Morkel once again the biggest culprit of the quicks, with 17 extras. Wides and not no balls were the issue back then, but the fact remains that there is clearly a disconnect between South Africa’s planning and their actual execution.
South Africa’s bowling in the shorter format of the game has often been an issue, especially when it comes to bowling at the death and conceding excessive amount of runs. Discipline has often crept in as an issue, but they have gotten away with it time and time again.
The issue was brutally exposed in the final ODI against Australia, though. The unlikely candidate Robin Pieterson had just bowled a double wicket maiden and Australia started looking as if they would need the Heimlich manoeuvre for a change. The ball was thrown to Abbott for the 47th over with new batsman James Faulkner at the crease. Abbott, widely regarded as one of the best death bowlers in the country, was going along perfectly fine until his fifth delivery, which was a no ball. Abbott had already bowled a costly no-ball earlier in the innings, when he dismissed Steve Smith and the Aussie captain was spared. Clearly Abbott did not learn his lesson. The no ball resulted in a quick single and the subsequent free hit meant that Australia needed just four runs off the last over. While it would be stretching to suggest that South Africa would have defended eight runs off the final over, it would have added extra pressure on Australia and, as everyone has seen, pressure does funny things to teams.
This inconsistency problem brings South Africa to a sort of crossroads. Forget the fact that South Africa had seemingly stopped bowling yorkers, the inconsistency in the bowling, especially in terms of extras, is galling. Sure, pressure adds to the execution, but to do the same thing over and over again is unforgivable. No balls is something that should happen rarely, not all the time. Run-ups and tweaking of actions all contribute to the issue, but the no ball culprits are experienced players who have been there and done that. Considering the South African team has a coach dedicated just to bowling, how on earth has the problem not been fixed yet? Allan Donald sure was a legendary player back in his heyday, but as a coach he is yet to live up to expectations.
With the World Cup just around the corner, South Africa’s bowlers and the coaching staff have one last push to rectify the basics that cost them in this series. De Villiers acknowledges this and knows that South Africa isn’t a completed article just yet.
“It’s silly things like basics that let us down. Just a poor performance all around, inconsistent…there’s nothing more to say, other than we know the areas we need to work on and maybe that’s the encouraging part,” De Villiers said.
“We know more or less what kind of players to rely on in pressure situations. We’ve got a better idea of the World Cup squad. Looking back, there’s a lot of learning to take from this. I think what we created here in the last while will definitely help us in the World Cup,” he added.
“We discussed it tonight again, (the squad) the coach and I. Obviously there’ll be some selectors meetings at home. The coach and I have a good idea of what we want for the World Cup. We don’t need a lot more cricket except for that month leading up to the competition where it will be nice to get some wins under the belt and coming back here with a bit of confidence.”
Confidence can do a team the world of good, but if the bowling inconsistencies persist, all the confidence in the world won’t help them compete in the tournament. DM
Photo: South African cricketer Dale Steyn calls out during the first one day international (ODI) cricket match between Australia and South Africa at the WACA ground in Perth, western Australia, 14 November 2014.