So who will replace Dale Steyn?

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Independent Media cricket writer Zaahier Adams, who is on tour Down Under with the Proteas, examines South Africa’s pace bowling options moving forward …

1. Morne Morkel

Tests: 71, Wickets: 242, BBI: 6/23, BBM: 8/196, Ave: 29.33, 5w: 6, 10: 0

The Australian media were particularly surprised when the beanstalk figure of Morne Morkel was not at the end of the line when the Proteas stood to attention for the national anthems prior to the start of this first Test at the WACA.

They simply could not understand how the 1.96m fast bowler from Vereeniging was left on the sidelines in favour of a debutant left-arm spinner. This was the WACA after all, traditionally the Mecca of fast bowlers, especially those of Morkel’s ilk.

But like both the Australian and belatedly the South Africans showed, the extravagant bounce can prove to be a fast bowler’s Delilah and that a fuller than normal length is often the road that leads to heaven.

Morkel will, though, have to be considered for the second Test in Hobart should the worst fears about Steyn’s injured shoulder be confirmed. Unfortunately for the visitors, their list of walking wounded includes Morkel after Temba Bavuma commented after the first day’s play here that the 32-year-old fast bowler has was “not 100% fit” after returning to the squad after a long-term back injury.

It has been interesting to note that despite Morkel having played a Sunfoil Series match back home and one warm-up match on tour prior to this first Test, Proteas physiotherapist Brendon Jackson is still putting him heavily through his paces every day.

The Hobart Test only starts in eight days time which should be sufficient time for Morkel to further work on his fitness issues, but there’s no doubt the risk of another fast bowler breaking down mid-Test would put the selectors on their guard.

2. Kyle Abbott

Tests: 7, Wickets: 21, BBI: 7/29, BBM: 9/68, Ave: 25.57, 5w: 2, 10: 0

Sitting behind a stellar frontline cast consisting of Steyn, Vernon Philander, Kagiso Rabada and even Morkel, Abbott has perfected the fine art of supporting act. “Jimmy” is not a bad tourist either, occupying his time between net bowling sessions with rounds of golf and go-kart racing.

However, at some point the men behind the curtain need to step forward and take centre stage. Personally, I believe Abbott could be a better option to replace Steyn due to his natural fuller length and the desire to swing the ball instead of Morkel’s reliance on bounce off the pitch.

The new Warriors seamer is also a workhorse and can ease the pressure on Philander, who is often required to deliver those long, testing spells that dry up the runs.

Abbott is also deceptively quick, and has the ability to generate significant seam movement if the Bellerive Oval surface does offer up anything generous for bowlers.

3. Duanne Olivier

FC matches: 55, Wickets: 212, BBI: 6/60, BBM: 10/38, Ave: 21.71, 5w: 12, 10: 1

The 24-year-old from Groblersdal in the Free State may not be part of the touring party in Australia, but he must surely keep his phone charged for that phone call from national convenor of selectors Linda Zondi. There will be a congress screaming for former Proteas speedsters Marchant de Lange and Hardus Viljoen’s express pace to be reinserted into the national side, but that would be foolhardy.

Olivier is currently the most skilful pace bowler operating on the domestic circuit, and he certainly doesn’t lack anything in terms of knots to succeed at the highest level. He was particularly impressive on the recent South Africa A trip to Australia where he had a first taste of the conditions Down Under.

The uncapped pace bowler returned home from that tour eager to continue pressing on the Proteas door and has certainly followed through on his ambitions. He currently leads the national wicket-takers list with 23 scalps at an average of 23.43 – two ahead of Viljoen.

It is unlikely that Olivier will handed a Test debut immediately should he be called upon due to the pecking order in the national team, but the quicker this young man is exposed to international cricket the better it will be in the long term for South African cricket.

Independent Media

Independent Media cricket writer Zaahier Adams examines South Africa’s pace bowling options after Dale Steyn was ruled out of the series.

Original source: So who will replace Dale Steyn?

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