Mr Close, Sir, your seams aren't in line
Rhodesian cricket is hopefully poised for an epic season, with the coveted Currie Cup the prize local followers have almost come to expect. What a psychological confidence-booster it would be for Mike Procter's men if they could overpower Brian Close's International Wanderers in the four-day match starting at the Salisbury Police Ground today.
The Wanderers boast nine established Test stars from England and Australia and in this, the last and major match of their tour, they will be uncompromising foes. Yet I must take Rhodesia to win, for three main reasons.
*** The Police pitch is one of the fastest in Southern Africa and the Wanderers may have some trouble adjusting.
*** The strength-sapping effect of a hot sun over four straight days could take the edge off the Wanderers, with the inescapable revelry of a happy tour also taking its toll.
*** Reason 3: Mike Procter.
Procter could be at his most menacing and one can confidently predict he will claim more than the two victims he got at Bulawayo last weekend. He relishes the pace of this pitch and with the considerable inducement of the Dairy Marketing Board's $2 a run and $10 a wicket sponsorship he'll be at full stretch.
Rhodesia's batsmen went on a run-rush in Bulawayo and one can expect a similar performance in Salisbury as the pitch is fast and true and the Wanderers seam attack is paltry. After the initial burst of that great-hearted Australian Test star Graham McKenzie and lanky Tony Greig, the seam attack lacks real bite and accuracy. Skipper Close and Basil D'Oliveira can be frustratingly accurate and they could bear the brunt of the attack with their medium-pacers.
Former England Test captain Close - acknowledged as one of the shrewdest and toughest skippers around - in confident his Wanderers will do better than in Bulawayo. "We're a bit more acclimatized now," he said yesterday. "The heat has been hard to work with. However, we got through OK and we feel we're ready to do well."
D'Oliveira seems to be over his heel injury and is expected to take his place on the field. The Wanderers standing down for this match are Australia's Bruce Francis and wicketkeeper John McLean. The team contains seven England Test players, one Australian and one New Zealander. Only non-Test men are David Green and Mervyn Kitchen.
Rhodesians will be happy to see the little Kiwi Glenn Turner in action for the first time. He has built a great reputation as a run-plunderer around the world and Rhodesia could find him hard to dislodge.
Rhodesia play the same team as in Bulawayo, except hard-hitting Howie Gardiner replaces Des Evans as wicketkeeper. It was Gardiner who caned eight sixes off the Aussies in Bulawayo several years ago and he will be looking for a confident start in the new season after some unhappy times with the bat last year.
Peter Carlstein will get a warm welcome back to the Police Ground as a Rhodesian and he looks like the man Rhodesia desperately needed last season at No 4. The devastating Brian Davison is happier at No 6 and the Rhodesian batting now bristles with power - Barbour, Fletcher, Robertson, Carlstein, Procter, Davison, Gardiner, du Preez, Benkenstein . . . another big total looms.