CALL TO ARMS
South Africa’s World Cup spin-bowling search continues – here are some potent options
South Africa ‘A’s current tour of Sri Lanka has unveiled a few striking choices for the spin-bowling all-rounder role at the upcoming 50-over World Cup.
Head coach Shukri Conrad selected only one specialist spin bowler for the current South Africa “A” multiformat tour in Sri Lanka – despite the subcontinent conditions being typically spin-friendly.
South Africa will play in a 50-over World Cup in India – which has similar conditions to Sri Lanka – in October, so the ongoing “A” tour is the ideal test for fringe players before the global event.
Spin bowling is expected to play a huge role in the tournament, with the all-rounder slot in the Proteas team more likely to go to a spin bowler than an extra-fast bowler.
SA “A” beat Sri Lanka “A” 2-1 in the three 50-over matches last week. Three options were used in the role of late-order finisher and spinner: Tristan Stubbs, Senuran Muthusamy and, surprisingly, Dewald Brevis.
Brevis is a budding leg-break bowler so the fact that he is being given an opportunity to roll his arm over in Sri Lanka is unsurprising – although selected as the side’s dedicated sixth bowler did raise eyebrows.
The 20-year-old also fulfilled a different role with the bat. Brevis – who batted at number four at the under-19 World Cup last year, and who has regularly opened the batting across formats for the Titans – came in at number seven in the opening match.
He proved his flexibility and undeniable talent with an exceptional unbeaten 98 off 71 deliveries (after coming in at 105 for five) to help South Africa “A” successfully chase 264.
Brevis played the next tour match as the dedicated spin bowler, dishing out more overs than any other South African bowler, and secured tidy figures of no wickets for 49 runs in nine overs.
Batting at seven again, he was unable to replicate his form with the bat, scoring two runs off five balls as Sri Lanka “A” won by seven wickets.
Stubbs struggled for form in T20 cricket, the format in which he first broke onto the scene. But he seems to have found his batting groove in Sri Lanka. Stubbs smashed the most runs in the three-match unofficial ODI series, despite playing only two matches.
The 22-year-old struck 117 runs batting at numbers four and six. He’s displayed a different side of his game on the subcontinent, showing he can build an innings and manoeuvre the situation when wickets are falling around him.
His strike rate was in the mid 60s in both the second and third matches, but without Stubbs’s contribution in the second 50-over match, SA “A” would not have set a competitive total, while his unbeaten 58 off 93 deliveries won the match and the series in the third game.
With the ball, Stubbs only bowled two overs off spin, claiming one wicket for five runs in the last match.
North West Dragons star Muthusamy is the most recognised bowler on tour, having played as the sole spinner in South Africa’s recent Test against West Indies at SuperSport Park.
The 29-year-old is vastly more experienced than Stubbs and Brevis and no less wily with both bat and ball.
Muthusamy was at the other end when Stubbs scored a match-winning half-century with a solid 45 off 55 balls.
While he bowled the most spin overs in the limited-overs matches with 19, conceding 89 runs and picking up two wickets.
Read more in Daily Maverick: South Africa ‘A’ players can stake their national team claim on cricket tour to Sri Lanka
What might not be in Muthusamy’s favour is that both Bjorn Fortuin and Tabraiz Shamsi – who look like the incumbent selections for the World Cup – are both left-armed, although Shamsi is left-arm unorthodox.
Meanwhile, Proteas stalwart Keshav Maharaj, who ruptured his Achilles tendon in March this year and is a big doubt for the World Cup, is also left-arm orthodox, like Fortuin and Muthusamy. DM