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South Africa's 'brave cricket' to be put to test

india Updated: Oct 09, 2006 14:22 IST
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South Africa go to the Champions Trophy in India as the world's second-ranked one-day international team, determined to play the "brave cricket" pledged by coach Mickey Arthur.

The "brave cricket" mantra was given expression when South Africa made a then-world record 438 for nine to chase down a seemingly insurmountable Australian total at the Wanderers Stadium in Johannesburg in March.

Arthur and captain Graeme Smith have identified the middle of an innings, typically from the 21st to the 40th overs, as an opportunity to up their strike rate with both bat and ball.

They are the overs after the end of fielding restrictions in which teams have generally settled for cautious accumulation, keeping wickets in hand for a late innings assault.

As part of the new South African philosophy, the reliable Ashwell Prince was jettisoned, barely a year after being identified as the middle-order anchorman who fed the strike to bigger hitters.

Instead, South Africa will field a succession of flamboyant stroke-players, such as Herschelle Gibbs, AB de Villiers, Mark Boucher and Shaun Pollock, with instructions to keep the score moving.

If there is an anchorman it will be Jacques Kallis, whose place in the batting order might fluctuate according to circumstances.

Trying to push up the scoring rate in the middle overs is seen by Arthur as being especially relevant in India, where the combination of slow pitches, reverse swing and soft, scuffed balls make quick scoring in the last ten overs difficult.

The problem for South Africa is that while they may be able to field an exciting batting team and they have some good fielders, their bowling is weak.

They had to make a world record total at the Wanderers because their bowlers leaked 434 runs for only four wickets to the Australians.

In their only series since the record-breaking game, South Africa comfortably defeated Zimbabwe during September but were able to bowl out their weak neighbours only once in three matches.

Although Shaun Pollock remains an accurate and economical bowler in one-day cricket, he has lost some of his pace and wicket-taking ability.

Makhaya Ntini, the only genuine strike bowler in the squad, has seldom been at his best on the slow pitches of Asia and the attack as a whole is largely one-dimensional, consisting mainly of right-arm fast and medium-pace bowlers.

Robin Peterson, a left-arm spinner, is the only specialist slow bowler and he is not renowned as a wicket-taker.

South Africa's build-up to the season was hit by their withdrawal because of security concerns from a triangular tournament in Sri Lanka which also featured India.

Plans to play in Abu Dhabi fell through and the Proteas had to be content with the undemanding series against Zimbabwe.

Matches against two franchise teams were arranged after the Zimbabwe series in which the national team beat the Johannesburg-based Lions but suffered an embarrassing defeat against the Titans in Centurion.

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