Quick! Think of a faster, better way to whitewash Pakistan
SA coach Ottis Gibson reckons Tests should be played at full throttle with results reached well inside five days
Bowlers haven’t had it this good in years. It is self evident in the fact that last year produced the most outright wins in the history of Test cricket.
SA coach Ottis Gibson and captain Faf du Plessis too are pushing a narrative that dictates that Test matches should be played at full throttle with conclusions reached well inside the prescribed five days. In the 14 Tests in charge of the national team, Gibson has yet to draw a Test. Last week’s win at Newlands to seal the series against Pakistan has emboldened the coach and the captain in their view that a four-pronged pace attack serves the team best on home turf.
The victory at Newlands means SA have won seven straight Test series on home soil. A large part of that success has been achieved with Keshav Maharaj operating as left arm spinner. The only series he was not involved in over that period was the one against New Zealand before he made his debut.
Du Plessis stressed after the Newlands Test, in which inconsistent bounce was the order of the day (and indeed of which he was a victim in compiling a fighting ton), that SA would be guided by a horses for courses approach in their selection. He said part of their thinking also factored in that Pakistan’s batsmen play spin well, which of course taps into the hosts’ strategy.
To be fair, prudent selection strategies through the ages have mostly revolved around selecting horses for courses. What is different, however, is that SA has had to consider what gives them the greatest advantage on their increasingly hard to predict surfaces.
The one at Newlands misbehaved as early as the second day, and it certainly served SA’s best interests then that they had more bowlers capable of hitting the 145km/h mark than Pakistan. Being unsure of the bounce at that speed can make batting a deeply perilous exercise.
Maharaj has apparently been told of the role he is likely to play in future. At the moment Dale Steyn, Kagiso Rabada, Vernon Philander and Duanne Olivier hold the starting berths, while Lungi Ngidi will more than likely rock that boat once he returns from fitness.
Spare a thought for Maharaj. Du Plessis described him as the country’s best spinner, and will continue to hold that position for some time to come – although Dane Piedt’s feats over past months warrants his name to be added to the debate.
As a former quick, Gibson is partial to a speed quartet. He grew up in an era when a great many Test series were decided by the quicks.
He is happy with the balance of the side but concedes having a genuine bowling allrounder such as Chris Morris (when fit) might improve his team.
Graeme Smith recently criticised Morris’s devotion to the white ball stuff. That’s where the money is. Morris was sold for $625,000 at the 2013 IPL auction and fetched $1m three years later.
A fit and motivated Morris can be a wonderful addition to the Proteas. He hits the deck at lively pace and extracts disconcerting bounce. Endowed with long levers, Morris can be a devastatingly destructive batsman, while his reach in the field, especially in the slip cordon, can be handy.
He has played in only four Tests (all against England), averaging 24 with the bat and 38 with the ball. He disappointed in his last Test and may still be paying for the sins of SA’s 239-run defeat to England at the Oval in 2017. He took three wickets in that Test but conceded at a rate of 5.75 in 28 overs.
Morris will have to fight his way back into the side and will have the added baggage of having to excel at both disciplines to change the selectors’ thinking.
In the last two matches Gibson’s quicks claimed all 40 wickets and Pakistan is unlikely to bring him to a different conviction by the end of the Wanderers Test.