Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent
Dale Steyn, South Africa's premier fast bowler, has said the mandatory ball change after 34 overs in an ODI innings could benefit seamers in this tournament. "The change of ball helped to get some reverse swing," he said from Chandigarh. "We worked nicely on the second ball, and it has become clear that it's going to play a massive role."
On Thursday, at the Feroz Shah Kotla in Delhi, the West Indies lost six wickets for 68 runs after the change of ball, with three of the scalps going Steyn's way. The effect of the second ball was also pronounced in the game between England and India in Bangalore. England lost six wickets for 109 runs, as their slide was sparked by a spell from Zaheer Khan, who took three wickets. "He got [Andrew] Strauss and [Ian Bell] with reverse," Steyn said.
Conventional wisdom suggested that the batting team would benefit more from having a harder ball two-thirds of the way through their innings. New Zealand's Danny Morrison said that in the subcontinent, it may prompt teams to take the Powerplay at the ball change. "In these conditions that makes a lot of sense, provided you have wickets in hand. That's when you can launch," Morrison said.
Now, Steyn has added a new twist to the third Powerplay tale, which will come as good news to the seamers who may have felt that they were coming off second best to the spinners in this tournament. South Africa's pace quartet of Steyn, Morne Morkel, Lonwabo Tsotsobe and Wayne Parnell have said that there is no substitute for out-and-out pace and that even if the conditions favour spinners, a genuine quick is still a threat.
They may be able to prove that on Thursday against Netherlands, who crumbled to the pace of Kemar Roach in Delhi. Steyn said that the Mohali pitch, where he's only played during the IPL, may suit the pacemen more. "From the stats apparently it's a bit better for fast bowling. I've heard it's a bit of a quicker deck." He's right in that the quicks usually find a bit more life in the pitch at the PCA Stadium.
Even if the conditions work to a seam bowler's advantage, Steyn said there are still significant differences between bowling in the subcontinent and bowling in South Africa. "You've got to be more street-smart over here. The full, wide ball doesn't bounce and finds the middle of the bat, it flies for four. In South Africa, it will bounce more and find the edge." Steyn's solution is in variation. "You can't bowl every single ball at the same pace in the same place." That's why he has been "throwing in a few cutters to reduce the speed from 140 to 120 kmph."
Steyn and the rest of the South African team have had ample time to think about different strategies, having spent two weeks in India before their first game against West Indies and then a week in between their first and second match. With a packed international schedule, Steyn said the players have welcomed the break and used it to ensure all the squad members are at their peak.
"There's a nice competition going on, because with everyone being fit for selection we're all competing for positions. When everyone is fit and there's so much time, everyone has a point to prove in practice sessions. It makes the coach and selection panel's job a bit difficult, but that's good."
It's also given players with niggles, such as Steyn, who hurt his right side during the warm-ups on Sunday, and JP Duminy, who had lower back pain, time to recover. Imran Tahir has also recovered from the respiratory tract infection he picked up. Although Tahir had an outstanding debut, conditions in Mohali may prompt Graeme Smith to leave out a spinner in favour of Tsotsobe, to give the left-armer some game time in the tournament. Tahir may get a few more days off but Steyn said if that is the case, it won't be because South Africa are resting players. "It won't be an easy game."