South Africa's bowling attack November 16, 2011

Donald upbeat about South Africa's pace future

South Africa's performance at Newlands and the upcoming talent provide plenty of encouragement about the depth of fast-bowling prospects in this country

Great cricket teams have defining features. Australia built years of victory on the back of Shane Warne and his legspin, West Indies on the legs of Malcolm Marshall and the Babylon boys, Ganguly's India broke new ground with their formidable batting line-up, Pakistan swung their way to legendary status with Waqar Younis and Wasim Akram at the helm and England's current record-breakers with the bat have helped them rise to the top of the Test rankings.

South Africa have usually relied on quality, fast bowlers and if Allan Donald has his way, their next few years will be characterised by quicks. Not just any kind of quicks; hard-line, uncompromising, forceful quicks. Donald simply labels their main quality, "aggression," but his explanation reveals that there is much more to it.

"There are two types of aggression," Donald explained. "It could be the person himself, the way he interacts with the battle in front of him. The other is aggression in the length, hitting areas hard. We often talk about aggressive lengths."

For a real-life example of what Donald means, watch Australia being bowled out for 47 in the second innings of the Test against South Africa at Newlands. "We adjusted our lengths very well in Cape Town," Donald said. Although the pitch was seamer-friendly, South Africa exploited the conditions, managing to extract seam movement and swing and were careful to stay short of a length at times, but not too short.

Of particular importance was that South Africa's pace spearhead, Dale Steyn, was back to his best. Steyn had an ordinary one-day series and complained about a lack of rhythm, something Donald can relate to. "If I didn't have rhythm a lot of things come factored in. It means you are not quite balanced, it might not come out well and you might lose your shape for a little while," he said. "Confidence plays a big part. What is so good to see, is that Dale ran in with massive intent. That's when I know he is on his game."

Donald has never talked up the importance of skill, rather he has impressed that attitude determines everything. "The first thing you judge someone by is the intent and the intent for me is that that he hits the crease hard," he said, saying he always knew Steyn would be able to mastermind his own comeback. "Great bowlers and great cricketers always find a way to come and make things happen."

A few months ago, Donald could not see another bowler on the South African landscape who he could say the same things about. He travelled with South Africa A side for a short, rather awkwardly timed, tri-series against Australia A in July in Zimbabwe and returned concerned. Instead of the usual fire-power he expected from South Africa's franchise players, he found many of them flat.

Although the pitches were unhelpful, dry, typical of winter conditions, South Africa A did not bowl their opposition out once. The second-tier bowling talent in the country appeared too far behind the top guys. Craig Alexander, the Lions paceman, who was quick and fiery at times was inconsistent, Rusty Theron played one match and could not contain in his usual fashion, Rory Kleinveldt was adequate without being exceptional and even Vernon Philander struggled.

Donald was criticised for his expressing his worries. He had only been back in the national set-up for a month and they felt he should have studied the local structures before saying they had not produced players of the right quality. Donald admits his fears but is happy to see he was mistaken. "I'll put my hand up and say I was a little bit concerned and I am not concerned anymore," he said. "What I have seen and what's out there is really exciting. The competition for places can only intensify from here."

Currently, the rivalry between Philander and Lonwabo Tsotsobe for a Test spot is the most interesting. Tsotsobe made his name against the touring Indians last summer with nothing more than 135 kph of sheer accuracy and discipline. Philander wrote his into history last week with eight wickets on debut against Australia, using seam movement as his biggest weapon. Philander's abilities with the new ball probably put him in front of Tsotsobe in the Test queue, but it's Tsotsobe who has the upper hand in the shorter versions of the game, where variation is more important.

"Vernon has been out for a while, he has learnt his game, he knows what he is about and he understands his role," Donald said. "And, he slammed the door down." Philander took 80 wickets in the SuperSport Series in the two seasons before this one, making him impossible to ignore. "That's what we are looking for from more of our young bowlers: to keep slamming the door down."

Wayne Parnell will listen to those words with interest. The quick, left-armer has fallen out of favour after numerous injuries dragged back his career. Parnell has yet to play a full season of first-class cricket in South Africa and the time he has spent touring, but not playing, with the national side, could end up costing him his place in the queue. Youngsters like Marchant de Lange and Pumelela Matshikwe are making themselves noticed instead.

de Lange, who took five wickets against Australia A two weeks ago in Potchefstroom, and claimed his maiden List A five-for two days ago, was invited to train with the national side in the lead up to the Wanderers Test. Donald first saw 21-year-old de Lange at the beginning of September and said he thought the young right-armer is a "very, exciting prospect" and wants to absorb him into the system.

"It is purely to get him involved and for him to mingle with all of us," Donald said. "He is in the bigger picture in the long term. It's quite nice that we fast track his belief. It's good to have youngsters involved and something we have to look at doing in the future."

Donald does not envisage a Patrick Cummins-style explosion of de Lange, or anyone of a similar age-group but he wants to do is create a national pool of players, who work with and around the squad and management personnel. After being pleasantly surprised by the depth in bowling that exists around the country, Donald wants to take the young charges under his wing, so that successes like Newlands will be regular occurrences. Moreover, he does not want to be seen as the fuel behind South Africa's fire, only as the man who starts the spark. "I am not here to take the honours, we are here to serve," Donald said. "It's not about me and I say that very humbly."

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Randolph on November 16, 2011, 22:12 GMT

    SA and Aus definitely have the best young bowling stocks in the world. SA's attack at the moment is out of this world. Can't wait for our young pup's to get up and about.

  • Dummy4 on November 16, 2011, 19:39 GMT

    It's so wonderful that Allan Donald is back in the South African fold again. He's totally dedicated, highly enthusiastic and incredibly driven for the country to succeed, as he always was as a player. He's gained invaluable coaching experience over the last few years, and now he's where he truly belongs. I see a golden period ahead for SA cricket, particularly Test cricket under Gary and Alan. For a country thats been knocking on the door for so many years, we really deserve it.

  • avinash on November 16, 2011, 18:46 GMT

    dudes they always good seamers they just need some good test spinners like swann for england bishoo for wetindies and vettori for newzealnd to win tests in subcontinent even in england and australia as fast doesn't work every time.even wth good pacers like ryan mclearn and stsobe and parnell they need took look more seamers seriusly like obes pioneer who can even replace kallis in next events to maintain balance in team and give edge of fifth bowler for sa to share the load.

  • darius on November 16, 2011, 16:57 GMT

    well said @awais tanveer subcontinent pitches are real testing conditions for fast bowler.SA seems to be talented team they perform all through the year but when it comes to a global tounament, to be more precise when its a knock out one,all the talent seems to fade doesnt matters how good u r unless n untill u r mentally tough. u cannot reach the the mental talent

  • Dummy4 on November 16, 2011, 14:41 GMT

    @NRI Your misunderstanding what he means by attitude... it' not about the way you act but how you approach your skills, your practice... it' about the hardwork you want to put in. Some with natural talent don't think they need to put as much work as the rest, what Donald's talking about is that it' better to have someone who is willing to learn and to push himself than someone with 'the gift'

  • sunil on November 16, 2011, 14:24 GMT

    @Afnan Aftab Motiwala , thats probably because you don't look far enough . England have a bunch of genuine quicks and guys like Finn , Woakes waiting in the wings . New Zealand have Adam Milne and Doug Bracewell coming up . I'm not counting Neil Wagner here as he isn't bred there . India have Umesh Yadav and Varun Aaron , both of whom operate regularly in the 140s with Aaron capable of pushing into 150 . Australia have a few promising options besides Cummins with Pattinson and Hazelwood likely to interest the selectors soon . Sri Lanka and WI don't seem to have many genuine quicks apart from the ones already in the side , but I may be missing somebody .

  • Gordon on November 16, 2011, 13:39 GMT

    I am with Donald on being fans of Marchant de Lange and Pumelela Matshikwe. They are looking impressive. South Africa still have some nice pace bowlers coming through domesticly also not to mention some promising spin bowlers would you believe it. So yeah South Africa is becoming talented team with a good mix of pace and spin which is great to see. Keep up the good work Shaun Von Berg you will be a star and also keep up the good work the other fellow spinners in the domestic circuit.

  • Dummy4 on November 16, 2011, 12:40 GMT

    i only see two countires producing real fast bowling talent , Pakistan n South Africa . . .

  • Dummy4 on November 16, 2011, 12:08 GMT

    I think we have seen some prolific quicks from South Africa. However the fear that Donald, Dale and my most favorite Fanie de Villiers created was more precisely blended with their pace, length and body language.

    I would be very happy to see Wayne Parnell to see these fearsome bowlers via tapes or rather CDs in this age and just observe. Wayne is god future prospect for South Africa and with bit of a guidance and SA is set for the future.

    My views mostly for Tests as I personally prefer keeping track of these matches.

    Thank you Firdose Moonda I really enjoyed it.

  • Vinay on November 16, 2011, 11:41 GMT

    Donald is wrong. Skills are everything and attitude counts for ZERO. If attitude was the whole story, Sreesanth would be the best bowler in the world. I know Donald means positive intent and hitting the crease hard but without skills, what use is that? You need swing, seam, bounce and reverse swing in your armoury plus pace (140+) and accuracy. Very few have it all. Even Mcgrath did not. Steyn - yes, he is close to perfect.

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