Apart from being the team that chokes in every World Cup and a team that is messed up by political influences (i.e. quotas), South Africa is also currently the No.1 Test team, and arguably one of the best ever. I’ve often come across comments on social media about how we’re over dependent on Dale Steyn, especially since Vernon Philander lost the form he had when he started.
But I’m not sure this is a big problem. South Africa has always had that one bowler who stands out and wins us games – Alan Donald, Shaun Pollock, and now Dale Steyn.
Which bowlers could be the next Steyn? Who could add yet more depth to this current Test line up? A lot of names come to mind when you think about the next bunch of great bowlers who could be as good as these three.
Kagiso Rabada (Age: 20 | FC bowling average: 22.33)
Rabada first made a name for himself in the 2014 U19 World Cup. At 18 he was bowling over 140kmph. He was the second highest wicket taker of the tournament and led South Africa to the trophy. Rabada scored a place in the Lions franchise straight away. He has done very well for them so far, including nine wickets in one innings in a recent match. Luckily, for once CSA has realised what a gem he is. He travelled with the team during our single Test vs Zimbabwe. He has already played 3 T20Is. Rabada is the next big thing and is very close to playing Tests. I wasn’t happy that he started off with T20Is. It’s a batsman dominated format, and as expected, Chris Gayle and co. feasted on all of our bowlers in that series, potentially ruining their confidence. I would love to see Rabada make his debut vs England this December.
Lizaad Williams (Age: 21 | FC bowling average: 23.88)
Lizaad Williams is another talented young pacer. He was part of the squad in the 2012 U19 World Cup. He did not get enough games but, like Rabada, scored a place in the Cobras franchise right away. Williams is exceptionally talented, and will develop further when given the opportunities.
Beuran Hendricks (Age: 24 | FC bowling average: 21.88)
I have no idea why Hendricks isn’t already in the Test team. He bowls left arm fast and fits in with CSA’s ‘transformation’. His stats are incredible, and being a left armer he helps add variety to the attack. He did play a few T20Is, but then he got injured and hasn’t been himself since. If he finds his rhythm anytime soon, he would be an amazing addition.
Kyle Abbott (Age: 28 | FC bowling average: 21.30)
Abbott is probably one of the unluckiest bowlers in the set-up. He made his Test debut vs Pakistan in 2013, where he picked up seven wickets in the first innings and two in the second. Since then he’s just been travelling with the squad, and has played just two Tests. He deserves to play more, he’s already 28 and at this rate will turn out to be a wasted talent.
Dane Paterson (Age: 26 | FC bowling average: 21.35)
While CSA has shown no sign of selecting Dane Paterson, he is coming off an incredible Sunfoil series and is perhaps next in line for a Test call-up, probably behind Kagiso Rabada. He picked 42 wickets at 22.54. Paterson bowls close to 140kmph and bowls at consistent lines and lengths. I would be shocked if he doesn’t get a call up soon, but knowing CSA, it is very likely that he won’t.
Chris Morris (Age: 28 | FC bowling average: 23.74)
I have not wanted to see anyone in both the Test and ODI side for South Africa more than Chris Morris. The selectors seem to have forgotten him after the Champions Trophy. It’s frustrating to see us struggle with the all-rounder spot with Chris Morris available. He is a handy batsman as well, and could come in for Vernon Philander. He’s in form as well – he picked 32 wickets at 20.18 in the Sunfoil series.
Mathew Pillans (Age: 23 | FC bowling average: 24.19)
Pillans is a good, young fast bowler. He picked up 29 wickets at 23.79 from 6 matches in the Sunfoil series. Unfortunately, unless he becomes even better in a few years, he might end up like Hardus Viljoen and will keep playing just domestic cricket till the end of his career. He’s just 23 and has a long, long journey ahead.
Special mentions to those who haven’t been selected yet and probably won’t be: Hardus Viljoen, Ethy Mbhalati, and Andrew Birch.
The only way South Africa can prepare for life without Steyn is by giving the bowlers listed above regular chances in the team. In the last two years, South Africa has played 13 tests (only!?). Dale Steyn is our only pacer to get a five-for. Four of them.
CSA has a history of giving many chances to players even when they struggle for years, but it’s time for Morkel to get a wakeup call, and to give other talented bowlers a chance. Morkel has been incredible in ODIs, but has failed to pick up wickets regularly enough in Tests.
Vernon Philander has clearly lost the unbelievable form he was in when he started playing Test cricket. He has particularly struggled on flat, dead pitches. With a massive, important tour of India coming in October, we’re going to need someone who can take wickets on these pitches. Dale Steyn has been doing so with simple perfect line and lengths and reverse swing. The Indian team has some much improved batsmen, like Murali Vijay, Ajnkya Rahane and Virat Kohli. They scored heavily in Australia and will be more dangerous at home. I don’t see Philander getting many wickets on that tour.
I am probably being too harsh on Morne Morkel. He has that awkward bounce for the batsmen he generates quite often, and his pace. His four wickets in the second innings of the second test vs Sri Lanka helped us secure a draw and win the series. He has been bowling well and has been a bit unlucky to not get that many wickets. He can get wickets on dead pitches with his pace and his experience is invaluable. But again, I really want to see how any of the bowlers I’ve mentioned above will do.
So, in conclusion, this would be the Test XI I’d like us to have. I’ll explain the logic behind my top seven in a future piece.
- Faf du Plessis
- Dean Elgar
- AB de Villiers
- Hashim Amla
- Stiaan van Zyl
- JP Duminy
- Quinton de Kock
- Dane Paterson/Chris Morris
- Dale Steyn
- Kagiso Rabada
- Dane Piedt
Reserves: Simon Harmer, Kyle Abbott, Rilee Rossouw