BRINGING THEIR A GAME
Proteas still searching for missing piece of all-round puzzle after Sri Lanka mission
Tristan Stubbs, Dewald Brevis and Senuran Muthusamy were the stand-out all-rounders in South Africa ‘A’s recent tour to Sri Lanka, but they’re up against a host of contenders for a place in the Proteas’ ODI line-up.
The Proteas white-ball side is currently in training camp in Durban following the completion of the South African ‘A’ team’s 2-1 50-over series win over Sri Lanka and 1-0 four-day series loss to the same opponents in Sri Lanka.
Stand-out performances for South Africa, with the bat, in the limited-over matches, came from 20-year-old Dewald Brevis who scored an unbeaten 98 in the first match, and Tristan Stubbs who struck half-centuries in the last two matches – the second of which took South Africa over the line to seal the series win.
“Tristan, in game two and three, he scored 50 coming in when the team was under big pressure,” the Proteas white-ball coach and SA ‘A’ assistant coach for the tour, Rob Walter, told Daily Maverick.
“He batted extremely well and then unfortunately just didn’t kick on, but had done all the hard work and really showed some strong batsmanship, which was great to see.
“Then in the third game [he] learnt from that and actually got the job done, so it was really good to see him batting with that sort of composure, specifically in game three which is always great to see for any coach. Guys who can get the job done.
“Then Dewald was exactly the same in game one.
“I suppose the thing about them both is they are able to hit boundaries and clear the fence, and if you are in that middle-to-lower order, you know pretty much a prerequisite in the modern-day game is being able to clear the boundary towards the end of the innings, so it certainly shows the capability of doing that.”
I think as a South African side in general we’ve started to play spin a lot better and the stats suggest that as well.
Senuran Muthusamy too played a vital support role in the final 50-over match, striking an unbeaten 45 off 55 deliveries and hitting the winning runs.
The three aforementioned players all played a similar role on the subcontinent tour – as spin-bowling options and finishers with the bat (although Stubbs was elevated to No 4).
“We wanted to use the ‘A’ games to try and identify guys in specific roles,” Walter said.
“All three of those guys, we wanted to see how their spin would hold up, as well as their batting, and their batting in those particular positions.
Read more in Daily Maverick: Proteas will crisscross India in great 2023 World Cup adventure
“It was nice to see them actually do well, given the role that we’re looking for.”
Brevis, Stubbs and Muthusamy are all part of the Proteas camp as they prepare to face Australia in a three-match, 20-over series and five-match One-Day International series at home at the start of September.
Adapting to spin
The three limited-over matches were played at Pallekele Stadium in Sri Lanka and were all won by the side batting second, aided by the conditions.
“In the three games you saw the batting sides under pressure quite early because the ball was nipping around a bit,” said Walter.
“But it did turn as well and it was really good to see the guys batting against spin.
“I think as a South African side in general we’ve started to play spin a lot better and the stats suggest that as well.
“Our spin play is improving all the time which is great to see and that’s filtering down into the SA ‘A’ side.”
South Africa’s ability to play spin on the subcontinent will be crucial, given that the 50-over World Cup will be played in India at the start of October.
The national team’s 50-over batting line-up has been consistent – barring injury – in the two series for which Walter has been at the helm so far:
Skipper Temba Bavuma and Quinton de Kock as openers, Rassie van der Dussen and Aiden Markram at first and second drop, with David Miller and Heinrich Klaasen the last out-and-out batters.
The all-rounder berths which follow are less certain.
“I’ve been pretty clear with the fact that I want two bowling options and the keeper in the top seven,” Walter said.
“You need your seven and eight to be genuine all-rounders if you want to challenge. That’s not always possible, and to balance the side you can’t always get that, but ideally your seven and eight must be able to bat and bowl, so we’re just exploring different options.”
Read more in Daily Maverick: South Africa’s World Cup spin-bowling search continues – here are some potent options
While Markram is the one bowling option within the established top seven, the other will come from whoever bats at No 7.
“Marco Jansen has batted at seven, and it’s all those guys such as George Linde, Andile Phehlukwayo, Wiaan Mulder,” Walter said about the other players in contention for the role.
“There are a number of 0ptions – Brevis, Tristan Stubbs, Muthasamy – so all those guys are specifically capable with the bat but offer something with the ball.”
None of the other players vying for a role in the squad has an opportunity to audition for a place before the World Cup since the squad needs to be announced before South Africa’s 50-over series against Australia.
“You can expect to see the World Cup squad playing again in those games against Australia,” Walter added. DM