South Africa's second-wave attack ready for opportunity
You've got to feel for South Africa's spinners. At home, not much goes their way because pitches are prepared to suit the pacers. On most tours, there is room for only one of them in a playing XI and then, that spinner's job is usually to hold an end up rather than attack. And now, even in Bangladesh where conditions should suit them, things still aren't going their way.
Although Aaron Phangiso, Eddie Leie and JP Duminy shared four wickets between them in South Africa's practice match against the BCB XI, the seamers stole the show, again. David Wiese, Kyle Abbott and Kagiso Rabada laid claim to the other six scalps on a strip that Phangiso lamented had "no turn," and that he "hopes the groundsman will do something different about," when the series starts on Sunday.
That wish may not be granted. Bangladesh are defying the notion that subcontinent teams can only prosper on spinner-friendly surfaces and, under Heath Streak, are developing seamers who now lead their attack, and tailoring conditions to suit them. South Africa's coach, Russell Domingo, warned Bangladesh that the strategy could play straight into the visitors' hands and Wiese and Abbott showed how. They sliced through the BCB XI with pace, tight lines and probing lengths and announced their intention to challenge for a place among the regular pacers in the national outfit.
With Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel and Vernon Philander rested, this is a rare opportunity for the other quicks to show what they are capable of at the highest level. For someone like Wayne Parnell, who has been part of national squads regularly but has played irregularly, it could be a crucial tour. Either he will stand out head and shoulders above the rest of the second tier, or he will be overtaken by them and on the evidence of the practice match, the latter does not seem too unlikely.
Wiese could stake a claim to fill the still-vacant allrounders' spot in South Africa's limited-overs' teams, a role his franchise coach believes he is ready to fulfill. "There's no doubt he can impact the game with bat and ball," Rob Walter, the Titans' coach, told ESPNcricinfo. Walter cited Wiese's game-changing 71* from 33 balls in the domestic one-day cup semi-final against the Dolphins and his 25 first-class wickets in three matches last summer as examples of his progress, the result of careful coaching.
"Our key area of focus has been mindset because David is traditionally a guy who is very hard on himself and gets down on himself quite quickly," Walter said. "When stepping up from amateur to professional cricket, he placed a lot of expectation on himself; he wanted to do well."
Wiese debuted domestically a decade ago, as a 20-year-old, and it took him nine years to receive international recognition. With each passing year, the pressure he would have placed on himself to do better grew. But under Walter, Wiese was urged to relax and it paid off. "It was about not creating too much hype and concentrating on skills and he has developed a nice set of skills, especially in bowling. He has worked hard on variations, change of pace and reading the game situation. Now, in the in the heat of T20 cricket, he is able to think quite clearly."
That much became evident when Wiese finished as the highest wicket-taker in the T20 series between South Africa and West Indies earlier this year and was snapped up by the Royal Challengers Bangalore for this year's IPL, where he was a regular. He played in 14 of Royal Challengers' 16 matches, was the team's fourth-highest wicket-taker with 16 scalps at 22.06 and fourth on their batting averages, behind AB de Villiers, Virat Kohli and Chris Gayle.
Walter, who worked with Delhi Daredevils, was in touch with Wiese through the tournament and talked about the positive effect the tournament was having on Wiese. "It showed him that he can say, 'I belong here.' It really boosted his confidence and reaffirmed his quality," Walter said.
Now, Wiese can try and belong for longer. Although he is 30, Walter expects him to have a decent run ahead of him. "He is in great physical shape and he spends a lot of time in the gym. I don't see any reason why he can't play both short formats for South Africa," Walter said.
Walter thinks the same of his other, newly-acquired allrounder, Chris Morris. Morris, who moved from Lions to Titans, is Wiese's likeliest competitor after Parnell but ideally, Walter would like to see them playing together. "They can both play T20 cricket for South Africa as allrounders at No.7 and No.8 because David probably offers a bit more with the bat and Morris a bit more with the ball."
And where does all that leave the spinners, who are in danger yet again of operating in the shadows of the fast men. "We have to think on our feet when you come to Bangladesh, you expect the wicket to turn a little bit but we didn't get anything today - you have to bowl it a bit quicker," Phangiso said. It doesn't get any easier for some.
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent