By Abhijit Banare
A look at the experience of South Africa’s pace attack beyond Morne Morkel, Vernon Philander and Dale Steyn doesn’t command much awe and fear. But when they come in to bowl there is absolutely no respite for the batsmen. It’s not their individual brilliance that kills the opposition but the ability to exert pressure as a group. Steyn comes in and swings the red cherry whereas Philander will suffocate the batsmen with his accuracy and Morkel will test the batsmen with more bounce. Any replacement here is only a replacement of the skill and less about experience, at least on home tracks. As Morkel sits out of the second Test against India with a ligament tear in his foot, there will be little predicament for the Proteas in making a choice for their third seamer. With Kyle Abbott and Rory Kleinveldt, Graeme Smith and the team management have to take a call between two equally effective pacers.
Who’s the better of the two?
Between the two, they share just five Tests of which Abbott has only played one. However, his only match could weigh in heavier than Kleinveldt, who has struggled to make an impact. Abbott took a five-for on debut replacing an injured Jacques Kallis against Pakistan, while Kleinveldt forced his way into the side being the leading wicket-taker in domestic cricket last year.
Both have good pace but Abbott is much more adept at moving the ball both ways. He can be a good first change bowler to replace Steyn from one end and keep the swing going. But Abbot’s short experience is what will count in favour of Kleinveldt. Despite all the heroics on debut, Abbott will still have the one-Test wonder tag on him. In comparison, Kleinveldt struggled on his debut against Australia in Brisbane. Not only did he concede runs, but also bowled a few no-balls. But he bounced back with an impressive performance. He was lucky to be backed by the team and got a chance in the Adelaide Test where he looked far more convincing. His ability to fight back from a poor start to his career shows that he does have it in him to be good option to replace Morkel.
Kleinveldt was already in the squad and Abbott was drafted in after the injury to Morkel. This does indicate that Kleinveldt is the best available back-up from the selectors’ point of view. Perhaps it might be the Durban wicket that might have created an opportunity for Abbott. If the Durban track becomes flat and convenient for batting, a bowler who can move the ball in the air can make some difference.
In comparison to Morkel, both these players are far better with the bat and have the ability to clear the fence more easily. They average around 19 in First-Class cricket, which is good enough for a No 9 or No 10 batsman.
What South Africa will surely miss is the bounce that Morkel extracted. As mentioned earlier, the lanky pacer’s bounce was an addition to swing and accuracy of the other two bowlers (Steyn and Philander). And in the first innings, the Indians were surely in some discomforting situations while dealing with him. Though the short balls didn’t set up a landslide of the visitors, Morkel’s ability with the same and the one that rises off a good length will be missed by the South Africans.
At the end of the day, fast bowling doesn’t necessarily mean one bowler ripping through the batting, but how the pacers build the pressure on the batsmen. While Abbott holds the edge, it wouldn’t be a surprise if Smith opts for the bulky Kleinveldt. Whoever gets the opportunity, it will be a perfect platform to shine under pressure.
(Abhijit Banare is a reporter at CricketCountry. He is an avid quizzer and loves to analyse and dig out interesting facts which allows him to learn something new every day. Apart from cricket he also likes to keep a sharp eye on Indian politics, and can be followed on Twitter and blog)
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