Pollock Brings Balance

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South Africa followed up their series victory in Pakistan with an emphatic demolition of New Zealand in their first home Test of the summer. South Africa won the first Test by 358 runs, their biggest run victory ever, eclipsing the previous best achieved against England in the ’94 series.

While both Jacques Kallis, who has scored a century in each test this summer, 4 hundreds in 3 Tests, and Hashim Amla, with an unbeaten 176, starred with the bat for the Proteas, it was Dale Steyn who proved the match winner, with his first 10 wicket match haul of his young international career, his match figures a brilliant 10/93.

Steyn bowled with pace, control, aggression and swing, proving too strong for the Black Caps batsmen, as New Zealand were bundled out for 118 and 172 in their two innings, the match over inside four days, giving them an extra days rest before the second Test, which begins on Friday.

South Africa have retained the same 12 man squad for the second Test, which means the likes of Neil Mckenzie and Boete Dippenaar, will both have to wait until the West Indies arrive to see if their run scoring for their franchises and the SA A teams have been rewarded. While Shaun Pollock is once again in the squad, if past selection is to followed, he will once again find himself doing duty for the Dolphins in the domestic scene and not the national team, as they are unlikely to alter a winning team.

The case against Pollock is that the selectors feel that a team composition of six batsmen, a wicket keeper, and four bowlers, one of whom will be a spinner, is the way forward for South Africa. This composition is based on the Australian model. They feel that an attack that is capable of bowling a team out twice is needed to win matches and do not see Pollock is fitting into that mold any longer. While their argument may convince themselves it is not entirely plausible. While Andre Nel has bowled well, in Pakistan and in the first Test here, a batting tail with him coming in at 8 does not inspire confidence. Andre Nel is a number ten or eleven batsman and nothing more. The weak tail has not been to much of an issue right now, with South Africa winning 2 Tests and drawing one this summer, but when put under pressure, which they have not as of yet been under, they may be found wanting. When South Africa need to bat out a day or more to save a Test they may find themselves wishing they had the bonus of Pollock coming in at number 8. While they have stated that this team composition means that added responsibility has to be taken by the batsmen, leaving the batting to them and the bowling to the bowlers, the truth is that this sort of argument is merely words with little substance. It is almost implying that with a stronger batting line up the top and middle order don’t give 100%, knowing that someone will follow them who can do a job too. If that’s the case then they shouldn’t be playing for South Africa. Whether they have a batsman or a bowler following them in the lineup shouldn’t matter, they should be setting out to score big anyway. Mark Boucher should not have to feel like its up to him every time he steps out to bat. A line up that is balanced it by far a better option. And Pollock offers this balance. While some may argue that he doesn’t take wickets with the same regularity that he used to, they can be countered by his economy and the pressure that that builds. Pollock, bowling maiden after maiden, will allow Steyn or Ntini to fire in from the other side, bowling shorter more effective spells. Pollock should be used as a foil to the strike bowlers and not as a comparison. When the wicket offers some assistance he will be able to extract that and bag himself some wickets too. He was the South African Test player of the year last season, yet can not get into the team this season. Nel only took 2 wickets in the match against New Zealand, would Pollock have done worse? Although his batting wasn’t needed this time it will be in the future.

While Nel, Ntini and Steyn are all fine bowlers, each worthy of selection, they shouldn’t be in the same starting 11. It upsets the balance of the team. Morne Morkel offers more with the bat and when he is fit he will restore some of that balance, and with him and Steyn bowling in the same team will give batsman something to really worry about. But Pollocks time is not up. So why force it?

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