Australia in South Africa 2013-14 January 31, 2014

Parnell ready for Test cricket again, says coach


A tweak to his delivery stride, regular first-class game time, and a bit of growing up has put Wayne Parnell in prime position to occupy South Africa's No.7 Test spot, according to his franchise coach Piet Botha. Parnell is one of two all-rounders in the squad to face Australia, and Botha believes Parnell's pace could give him the edge over Ryan McLaren.

"He is definitely ready for Test cricket again. In South African conditions, where the wickets are a little bouncier, he will be a handful," Botha, the Warriors coach told ESPNcricinfo. "He is a little bit older now, he's played a little bit more cricket and he backs himself in tough situations."

It has been four years since Parnell made his Test debut for South Africa as a 20-year-old with dreams to match his promise. He had played nine ODIs before that, with two five-wicket hauls. He also featured in eight Twenty20 internationals, including six in the 2012 World T20 where the seven wickets he took in two games against England and West Indies remain some of South Africa's finest performances at major competitions.

His promotion to play in whites had then seemed a little premature - he had only played nine franchise first-class matches, six three-day provincial games and five division two county games at that point - but South Africa were willing to gamble on his talent. They were searching for a third prong to complete the Dale Steyn-Morne Morkel duo and thought a left-armer would be a good option.

Parnell played three Tests- two in India- and took five wickets, but that was the end of the experiment. The talk around the traps was that the team management wanted him to experience a full season of first-class franchise cricket. But before that could happen, Parnell suffered a severe groin injury in May that year.

Recovery was slow, relapses were frequent and his constant yo-yoing in and out of the limited-overs sides meant that the chance for a prolonged four-day run was elusive. "There was a period of time where he just wasn't playing first-class cricket and that was a problem. The injury didn't help because it plays on a players' mind, they are are never 100% mentally there," Botha said. "He always had the skills to play but he just wasn't getting the game time."

Two seasons ago, in the 2011/12 summer, Parnell played just three matches for the Warriors. Last season, he played five and in the four rounds of the domestic competition completed this year, he has appeared in only one. It was an important one though, as he took eight wickets in the match to give his team a big win.

Parnell also found an opportunity with South Africa A and made an impact there as well. He played both unofficial Tests against Sri Lanka A in the winter of 2012, and was the joint second-highest wicket-taker. Last winter, he played both the games against India A. He was under the watch of people close to the South African team, such as former bowling coach Vincent Barnes, and subsequently improved his performances. Parnell was bowling quickly and his batting, something he was always capable of, was developing.

"He has always had the ability to bowl 145kph plus and if the technical things are all right, he could even bowl quicker than that," Botha said. So it made sense to focus on the adjustments. Botha concentrated on what he could do to ensure Parnell did not just bowl speedily on occasion, but could do it consistently. For that to happen, he had to ask Parnell to change one aspect of his delivery stride.

"Wayne used to have quite a long stride and he would end up blocking himself off, so we worked on getting it a little shorter," Botha explained. "By doing that, he would be bowling a lot from over the top, rather than with his arm side-on, and so could bowl at maximum pace."

It sounds like a minor change, and it was, but it still required time in the nets to perfect the action. That was important in fine-tuning Parnell's work ethic, something he has now become an expert at. "He puts in a lot of extra work these days," Botha said. "He's very professional about the way he goes about things."

The rewards of all the long hours he spent in training are not limited to his bowling. Parnell averaged 48.33 in List A cricket in this season's One-Day cup, scored a century and even opened the batting for the Warriors. His 91 against India A showed he could be more than a white-ball bludgeoner, and Botha believes this can also translate to the Test level.

"What he learned is that when he takes his time to get in, he can really build an innings," Botha said. "When guys come in down the order, sometimes they fall into the trap of thinking they have to score quickly and they end up getting out early. But Wayne has proved if he gives himself a bit of time, he can get runs."

The patience required to play himself in has come with age. "He has grown up a bit," Botha said "But that comes the more you play and now we can see it in Wayne, he's more mature. He's ready for Test cricket again."

The McLaren camp will disagree, citing greater experience and better numbers as the reason their man should fill the gap left by Jacques Kallis. Although both McLaren and Parnell have been international cricketers for five years, McLaren is six years older, has a higher first-class batting average and a lower first-class bowling one.

What he does not have, though, is the gas to send down delivers at close to 150kph from an awkward angle. "Wayne is unique, not just because he is left-armer so he has the advantage of the angle but because he is so quick," Botha said. Because this series has been dubbed a battle of the bowling attacks and pace is expected to play a big role, Parnell is a safe bet to feature heavily in it.

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • BG on February 3, 2014, 12:02 GMT

    @ Ozcricketwriter. If you take away his last test Kallis didn't contribute so much during the last season and a half. The likes of Smith, De Villiers, Amla, Du Plessis, Steyn and Philander(with cameos from Morne Morkel, Alviro P, Robbie P and once Imran Tahir) carried the team. For 15 years he was the greatest all-rounder but the team have already learnt to cope with a reduced contribution from the great man.

    I would start Parnell and Mclaren in the 1st test. In those conditions Robbie P will be useless and with De Kock and Abbott not in the squad they are better options than Tsolikele and Kleinveldt. Parnell reminds me of a young Mitchell Johnson, mostly horrible but sometimes magic. Stick hom in at 8 and see what happens. LOL!!!

  • greig on February 3, 2014, 10:24 GMT

    Parnell is too hot and cold for my liking. Especially in a Test match environment. Selectors are making the wrong decision be selecting either one of these players but that is another story.

    McLaren has a better bowling and batting record, I couldnt care less if he is older or slower. After Dale and Vern have finished their spells, its very important that their efforts are well followed up by Morkel and another. My worry is Parnell will be too loose and allow the Ozzies easy scoring opportunities. McLaren would be much tighter and smarter for my money.

  • Clement on February 2, 2014, 21:00 GMT

    @Ozcricketwriter I don't think he will" replace" Kallis per se. At best he is a middle to lower order batsman, unless he suddenly improved his batting technique three-fold. They will probably have to reshuffle the batting order a bit to suit the middle order. In other words either bring JP Duminy or AB up a bit to accommodate Wayne. They could technically drop Robin Peterson and put in McLaren, and while this would give the other seamers more rest, it will mean they're sacrificing a spin option for more of the same. As for Quinton De Kock, if he can control his youthful enthusiasm and focus his ability for the longer format, he should do well. But battling the Aussies now isn't a good idea considering SA would want to put an end to Australia's success on their home turf. It isn't a gamble worth taking when the team is settled. I do worry about Parnell's consistency though. I hope he can maintain good form and not hand the Aussie batsman too many freebies.

  • Adrian on February 2, 2014, 20:13 GMT

    Is Parnell going to replace Kallis? 30 points worse in batting and 5 points worse in bowling, at first class level, is going to hurt South Africa pretty badly. I would have thought that there were better options. Like maybe Quinton de Kock, who at least won't hurt so badly with the batting, and will free de Villiers up to be a specialist batsman and not have such a burden.

  • creebo on February 1, 2014, 19:09 GMT

    I can see parnell average 35-40 with the bat and 25 -30 with the ball

  • Gordon on February 1, 2014, 15:11 GMT

    The problem with Parnell as I have noticed over the years is his consistancy with both ball and bat. He does show glimpses of what he has got to offer but that tends to be where it stops with him. It does sound good if he can bowl fairly quick being a left armer that would be nice indeed. In the past I always put McLaren before him because of his consistant performances at Domestic level. If I had a choice for the First Test I would go for McLaren because you should reward someone who played well in the ODI team only to be left out of the Test Squad. And in the second Test what is the worst that can happen if McLaren doesn't deliver well then drop him and put in Parnell in place of him in the team. McLaren is the better batsman when it comes to First Class cricket so I guess if they want someone who can do well down the order. Parnell has done well in ODD matches though making a couple of tons with the bat but none in the First Class system.

  • Gerald on February 1, 2014, 11:35 GMT

    I agree with Parnell ahead of McLaren if the coaches think he is mentally ready, because that was always the issue. McLaren should've been in the Test/ODI teams years ago ahead of Tsotsobe. He would not have been a huge star or anything but he would've delivered decently for us and he bats much better than the political representative. Unfortunately politics kept him out and now better players are going to leapfrog him. So sad for him because he missed out on a decent mini-Test career.

  • Dummy4 on February 1, 2014, 11:12 GMT

    I have been rooting for Wayne since he was a youngster. A truly wonderful talent who is yet to show his full potential. I think that time has now come. I hope the selectors have the courage to go with him ... he could well be the Ace up South Africa's sleeve in this series!

  • Mayan on February 1, 2014, 11:11 GMT

    I would go with both Parnell and Mclaren and leave Robbie P out for the test with the bounciest wicket. Let us then see what these Ausie batsmen will do against Steyn, Morkel, Philander, Parnell and Mclaren. I say South Africa will humiliate them like during their last little outing at Newlands. What I won't give to see a couple of repeats of what happened to them during that match!

  • Ash on February 1, 2014, 10:13 GMT

    on records parnell should definitely be in the team

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