Australia v South Africa, first Test, Brisbane November 11, 2012

Will lack of a spin option hurt South Africa?


The absence of a part-time bowler is usually not a cause for much concern except if you are South Africa in Brisbane over the next few days. While JP Duminy's heel injury shortens their specifically created seven-man batting line-up, it also takes away their only spin option, something that they may have wanted to call on even if only to perform a holding role.

Although Duminy has not been a serious bowling option for South Africa in the past, much was expected of him in this match. He was the only slower bowling option as South Africa opted for an all-pace attack and handed a debut to Rory Kleinveldt on what they expected to be a paceman's paradise. Instead, the surface has been termed "a little slower than normal," by Ben Hilfenhaus and does not offer much bounce.

Although it hasn't taken much turn either, it is a pitch that requires bowlers to put a lot of effort in and South Africa may find a need for someone to provide respite to the quicks, which they now don't have. Without Imran Tahir in the side, Duminy would have been that bowler.

Duminy bowled significantly in Sydney in the warm-up match and had increased his workload in the nets. Graeme Smith, Jacques Kallis and Alviro Petersen all said he would be relied on to some degree in this match while some of the management called him "an underrated but effective spinner."

Instead, South Africa will have to rotate between their five seamers without tiring any of them out. At least, it does leave them one-dimensional because each of the quintet offers something different.

Even without much movement in the air, Dale Steyn is fierce at the best of times and Australia's top order froze in his presence. Vernon Philander found some seam movement in his first spell and had best summed up the length to bowl while even Morne Morkel adjusted enough to a fuller length than he is usually comfortable with.

Morkel still erred on the side of too short but the major culprit was the rookie, Rory Kleinveldt, who bowled a first Test spell which lasted only three overs. That is nowhere near enough to make a judgment on him even though sent down four no-balls and conceded five boundaries. Anything from nerves, the occasion and a lack of composure could have caused him to bowl plenty of short and wide deliveries.

Jacques Kallis, the final prong, did not bowl at all, having spent the first two sessions batting. To rest him after he has had a long period in the middle with the bat has become the norm but it could have piqued the interest of those who heard Smith say the veteran allrounder had a few niggles at the toss. Immediately after Smith uttered the words, they were explained by team management as merely referring Kallis' recent chest infection and overall management.

Kallis himself brushed aside any fitness concerns. "I'm ready to go, it's just about managing the workload," he said. "My body is alright at the moment." Kallis fielded and took two sharp catches at second slip as proof of that and will no doubt have to run in hard on day four if South Africa hope to move the game forward quickly enough to force a result.

He also did not feel as though the attack would lack for anything, particularly because of the conditions. "There's not too much on offer spin wise," Kallis said. "It's a good Test wicket with a little in it for the fast bowlers. We've got five seamers so hopefully we've got enough cover."

If Australia's batsmen get away from them, as they did when Ed Cowan and Michael Clarke had stabilised after the early triple-strike, one or even two of those seamers will have to be able to bowl many overs and keep things tight. Philander is the obvious choice as Steyn and Morkel are the obvious choices for short bursts but Kallis could find himself required to bowl more than he would otherwise have done.

Smith's only spin options are to use himself or fellow opener Alviro Petersen, who got a bit of practice in the recent Champions League T20. Jacques Rudolph once used to be a part-time leggie but bowling has affected his back and he will likely only be called on if absolutely necessary if at all. That point is some way away though and a resigned Hilfenhaus did not think South Africa would get there at all. "They have a lot of bowlers in the make-up of the team so I'm guessing they will find a way to cope," he said.

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Sunny on November 12, 2012, 14:20 GMT

    of course whose brain was behind such defensive decision. ruined ur chance SA.

  • John on November 12, 2012, 10:46 GMT

    "Will lack of spin option hurt SA?" oh yeah - lots of pain in fact. 0-387 for the bowlers. Well predicted Firdose. And how much research did it take the South African selectors to work out you require spin at the Gabba? Nathan Lyon took wickets last year. Shane Warne took plenty at the Gabba.

    Whatever else it was it was a very defensive selection. And Australia leaving Starc out lacked imagination. They need a left arm seamer especially one who is defeating world class batsmen with inswing at pace.

  • David on November 12, 2012, 8:49 GMT

    Ross_Co. Reading your recent posts one fails to "get the impression" that your contributions to cricinfo conversations are driven by the desire for respectful, reasoned dialogue amongst cricket followers. I agree that dropping Tahir is an inexplicable decision, but the presumption that it was motivated only by an ICC ranking is so far fetched it invites questions as to the motivations of it's author.

    The theory with the least assumptions is most likely to be valid - Occam's Razor

    Theory 1 - SA's only interest is maintaining their no. 1 status, & believe the best way to do this is by drawing 3 tests (instead of winning them,) & thus omit their spinner because an all pace attack is the proven best option for securing a draw at the Gabba.

    Theory 2. Having never played there, SA think that on a Gabba green-top Duminy has the spin they need & and extra pace will bring the win.

    Which theory seems more valid? Let's hear from other readers - post your choice for Theory 1 or Theory 2?

  • Murray on November 12, 2012, 8:36 GMT

    Might get their captain banned for a game for slow over rates.

  • Ash on November 12, 2012, 1:52 GMT

    In a test match, played over five days, each side can have a maximum of two innings and hopefully minimum of one inning? Aus v SAF 1 test match, do they have time for 2nd innings? Is 2nd innings compulsory? Can they end the game without a draw by playing only1 innings for a win/loss?

  • Ross on November 12, 2012, 1:32 GMT

    Weird decision. SA have been playing to save the match since the toss. Win the toss with 5 fast bowlers and elect to bat!!? Tahir's no superman but he bowled way better than Swann in the recent series. One gets the impression that SA would be very happy with a nil-all series, then they get on with enjoying their No.1 status.

  • Peter on November 11, 2012, 19:49 GMT

    Although his figures didn't flatter him, I am always reluctant to write off guys after a couple of performances, especially when selected by top ranked teams. They know something is special about them. Let us not forget Warne's figures after 3 tests was 1 for 351. He has reached the ultimate level, good luck to him.

  • Mashuq on November 11, 2012, 18:32 GMT

    Given that they feared playing Tahir for the runs he might concede it was a no-brainer for experienced guys like Smith and Kirsten to see that they needed to pick Peterson. Cover-ups won't fool Tahir from realizing that they were afraid to risk him.

  • SURAJ on November 11, 2012, 18:14 GMT

    why is Kleinveldt even playingf? this wicket is gripping n turning ,even the curator had told in advance about the wicket.... this could well turn out to be the difference between a win and a draw for south africa

  • des on November 11, 2012, 13:43 GMT

    Kleinveldt must be the worst seam bowler to debut for SA since readmission. No pace, no control, just rubbish. Even though De Lange is injured surely Parnell or Tsotsobe would have offered more, and at least offered left arm variation.

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