Wayne Parnell has promised to prioritise precision over pace as he prepares for a Test recall this week, almost three years since he last played an international in whites. In that time, he has changed aspects of his action to ensure he does not rush through to his delivery stride but arrives at the crease with stability. As a result, Parnell may have lost a bit of pace - he isn't sure because he has not played in a televised match in the last few months - but he is willing to sacrifice speed for the certainty of landing six balls in the same area.
"If I want to play Test cricket and do so successfully, it's about being consistent rather than bowling quickly but bowling all over the show," Parnell said. "I'm not sure if my pace has dropped but even if it has dropped by two or three kilometres, my groupings are better, I will be happy with that."
Parnell's focus on form came in the last two seasons when he chose to concentrate on domestic cricket instead of pushing for a place in the national side, where he knew he has faced serous competition from the incumbents. "I don't think I have been close to the playing XI and with the likes of Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel, Vernon Philander and KG (Kagiso Rabada), there have been five or six bowlers ahead of me in the longer format. I'm not frustrated about that," he said. "I was not worrying about getting myself back in, it was just about playing good consistent cricket."
The opportunity to have regular game time at franchise level has changed Parnell, especially because it was something he lacked from seasons of touring as a reserve member of the national side. Although Parnell trained throughout those trips, he admitted no amount of net sessions could compare to crossing the boundary rope and being in the heat of a contest.
"If you look back, I've played two games, gone on tour, then played one game," he said. "It was about playing consistently. If I practice for five hours a day or if I bowl 10 overs in a game, it's definitely better bowling in match situations. Sometimes you can practice, you can bowl to beacons and you can hit five out of six but when a batter is there, he is trying different things, shuffling down the wicket, staying leg side, going to the off side so you have to adjust as well. It was about having plans and implementing them."
One of those things was developing his all-round game, something that got lost when he was fast-tracked through as a left-arm seamer. In recent seasons, Parnell has opened the batting in T20s and was even asked to do the job in first-class cricket. Last weekend, he scored a match-winning century for Cape Cobras against Lions for a gripping ending.
"I have always had the ability to bat. People haven't really seen that because when I started at the Warriors, I was batting at No. 9 but given the opportunity I have shown there is something there," he said. "For me, it's about winning games, whether it's scoring 100 not out or getting a tough 30, it's about what the coach and captain need from me."
South Africa have long stressed the need for more allrounders in their set up and while Philander, Keshav Maharaj and JP Duminy have all emerged as candidates in the Test arena, there is room for more and Parnell hopes to fill that gap. "If I am picked, I am really keen to make a mark," he said.