Wed, 26 Jun 2019

CWC: Still a gap in Proteas' door?

23 Mar 2019, 16:12 GMT+10

Cape Town - Whoa, there ... perhaps it's still a fraction too early to be placing names confidently on shirts for South Africa's World Cup squad.

Although the 15-strong party is due to be officially revealed some time in the second half of April, a feeling has been understandably mounting that the Proteas' brains trust are extremely close to 100 percent sure who they wish to put on the plane to the UK in May.

But as the white-ball phase of the Sri Lankan tour here continues - the final game is the now dead-rubber third Twenty20 international at the Wanderers on Sunday - and injury-related factors also sneak into the equation, the potential for some adjustments in thinking has instead come back into play.

South Africa winning the second T20 contest at SuperSport Park on Friday by 16 runs (it would have been considerably more but for another Isuru Udana whirlwind onslaught with the blade toward the death) was marked by several, arguably borderline Proteas figures for CWC 2019 serving fresh notice of their credentials.

One of those was Chris Morris, the much-discussed, often enigmatic all-rounder who commands fairly devout support from certain high-profile pundits, but is also thought to have been slowly categorised primarily as a shortest-format player only in the eyes of the SA selectors and probably also head coach Ottis Gibson.

But if up-to-the-minute form is still something Morris can make to work in his favour for a late World Cup squeeze-in, then his bowling showing at well-attended, vibrant Centurion did him no harm at all.

The spirited clubber did not get to the crease on the night, although he oozed energy and purpose right from the outset of the hosts' defence of 180 and helped established spearhead Dale Steyn cause rapid carnage to the ever-problematic Sri Lankan top order.

Morris ended up as top South African wicket-taker with a haul of three for 32 from a maximum stint of four overs, relishing the decent bounce and carry to the surface and, for the most part, demonstrating pleasing discipline - not always his primary forte.

Something to consider now for those who feel he either will or should be left behind in May regardless of his latest exploits for the national cause: there must be a minor chance, even if the Proteas will be earnestly hoping otherwise, that either or both of pacemen Lungi Ngidi and Anrich Nortje will not make the CWC cut due to injuries.

They are sitting out the Indian Premier League to undergo rest and treatment, with a view to being ready in ample time, but as record-breaking SA bowling all-rounder Shaun Pollock pointed out in SuperSport commentary, their setbacks are not of the easiest kind to remedy.

Ngidi has a side strain, which can be a fickle type of injury that primarily requires patience and a wait-and-see sort of approach, while a fast bowler having a shoulder problem - the slippery Nortje's plight - also isn't the kind you would wish for too fervently.

So perhaps the Ngidi-Nortje uncertainty, more than any special personal exploits over the next few weeks, could provide a late ticket to the World Cup for Morris, who differs from other, presently more established SA all-rounders like Andile Phehlukwayo and Dwaine Pretorius in that he doubles as a genuine strike factor.

Meanwhile, if Reeza Hendricks was felt to be slipping out of CWC contention due to an inconvenient lean trot at the top of the order, he put a convincing stop to his relative rot on Friday, smashing an elegant 65 off 46 deliveries and helping the increasingly consistent and accomplished Rassie van der Dussen (a squad definite now, you would think) post a century partnership in the T20 international.

Their brisk alliance of 116 for the second wicket was the ninth highest stand for the Proteas in the T20 landscape - Graeme Smith and Loots Bosman still lead the way with 170 against England at Centurion in 2009 - and the country's 15th partnership of 100 runs or more.

A more protracted end-of-season blossoming from Hendricks could just see a change of heart, assuming the intention right now is to leave him behind.

A third "bubbling under" player, however, presented a quiet but agreeable case at SuperSport Park: debutant wicketkeeper-batsman Sinethemba Qeshile was nifty and assured behind the stumps, despite also not getting the chance to show off his stroke-play.

But he would be on the radar, among others, if - and it's not expected now, in truth - the selectors suddenly got cold feet about taking only one gloveman (Quinton de Kock) to the World Cup and wanted a second specialist instead of resorting to David Miller as a stop-gap in the role in an emergency.

Yes, there's still a shaft of light evident through that selection door ...

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