Faf du Plessis
Faf du Plessis (AFP Photo)

With the ICC World Cup 2019 a few months away, the teams are now fine-tuning their combinations to strike the right balance which they hope will help them go all the way at the quadrennial event in England later this year.

While South Africa boast of all the ingredients to excel as a Test team, in ODIs they are yet to reach that stage and the coming series against Pakistan gives them a chance just to do that.

After a clean sweep of the Test series, South Africa face Pakistan in a five-ODI series beginning Saturday at St. George’s Park in Port Elizabeth. Captain Faf du Plessis admits Pakistan are a much stronger one-day side than his own team and is looki g forward to the challenge.

“We’re a one-day side that’s still trying to find that balance in our team,” Du Plessis was quoted as saying by ESPNcricinfo on Friday. “With Quinny [de Kock] and Dale [Steyn] not here in the first two games, it actually gives us an opportunity to look at what else we need to look at, which is important.”

He added, “Pakistan is a very good one day side and probably they would be the first to say that from a performance point of view, their one-day team is much stronger. It will be a nice challenge for us.”

But there’s still time for the world cup. The immediate challenge is the first ODI on Saturday and they will have to decide whether to play one spinner or go with two at St George’s Park which offers more spin than any other ground in South Africa.

“It is a decision that always comes into it at St George’s Park: do you need one spinner or do you need two spinners?” Du Plessis said. “Because it is possibly the ground in the country that can spin the most, if you compare it to the other grounds around the country. It’s also a day/night game, which is possibly something different as well. So there are one or two things we need to consider in terms of the balance of our side.

“But over the next five games, certainly the spinners will have their say. Pakistan is a very good batting team against spin, so it will be a nice challenge for our spinners. I’m hoping over the next 5 or 10 games our two spinners, and we’re very lucky to have two good spinners, will have a good equal opportunity to just keep working on their games and making they’re getting themselves ready for the World Cup.”

Another aspect they will be looking to get a clearer picture of is that of an allrounder in the lower order. They have several options to choose from and Du Plessis hopes to come up with a definite answer by the end of the series.
“It’s an answer that I’m hoping to give to you after this series. We’re hoping that over the next 10 games, over the Sri Lanka series as well, all the allrounders that are there in Andile Phehlukwayo, Wiaan Mulder, Chris Morris and Dwaine Pretorius, that you’ll at least have one or two of those guys who really put their hand up and shout to the selectors ‘pick me’,” he said.

South Africa are also going to give their backup seamers a go against Pakistan to give them an option to fall back on at the World Cup if the need arises.

“From a brains trust point of view, we’re always looking at X-factor players in our bowling attack. So Lungi [Ngidi], Dale [Steyn] and KG [Rabada] are fantastic seamers and they pick themselves, but possibly as one back-up extra seamer, we’ve got some nice pace bowlers in our country. Duanne Olivier is one. Even [Anrich] Nortje who bowled really well in the Mzansi league is someone we’re still looking at. [Dane] Paterson is a different kind of a bowler, he’s more of a swing bowler, but that extra bowler, if something were to happen to one of those bowlers at the world cup, if we had someone with a bit of pace, it would be nice,” Du Plessis said.