These are early days in the Sunfoil Series, but the indications are that the bowlers aren’t going to have it all their own way this season. Indeed, if the games completed this weekend are anything to go by, it may be the batsmen who enjoy a bumper tournament.
While all three matches were drawn in the second round, that had as much to do with the weather as it did with the pitches. Yet the size of the scores racked up, and in particular the speed at which they were accumulated, suggested that the sporty wickets that brought two- and three-day finishes in 2012-13 have been blunted for the current term.
- At Senwes Park the bizhub Highved Lions and Chevrolet Warriors scored a combined 1293 runs for the loss of just 20 wickets, and they scored them at an average rate of 4.28 per over.
- At Sahara Willowmoore Park, The Unlimited Titans and Nashua Mobile Cape Cobras lost almost two days to rain but still managed 901 runs at 4.3 per over. In both matches and the average wicket cost 64 runs.
Things may yet even themselves out but so far there has been a marked difference to last season, when the seamers ran riot – nine pace bowlers took 20 wickets or more at an average of under 25 in the 2012-13 Sunfoil Series.
The ideal balance would see a proper contest between bat and ball that brought a result in the final session of day four, but that is often an elusive scenario – particularly with unpredictable weather.
What we may see this season, if the balance tilts towards the batsmen, is more competition for places in the Proteas’ top seven.
Last season the confidence that the seamers gained in the Sunfoil Series was evident in the performances of Rory Kleinveldt and Kyle Abbott in their debut seasons for the national side – while Kleinveldt made a successful step up in Australia and at home, Abbott claimed match figures of 9 for 68 on debut against Pakistan at SuperSport Park.
The early frontrunners for a Proteas call-up this season are undoubtedly Lions opener Stephen Cook and Cobras batsman Stiaan van Zyl.
The left-hander has two big hundreds from two innings so far this season, while Cook has 334 runs from four innings. The likes of Colin Ingram and Temba Bavuma have also made promising starts.
Cook, Bavuma and Van Zyl will all have the opportunity to prove themselves at a higher level when they play for a South African Invitational XI against the touring Indian team next week.
As settled as the Proteas Test squad may be, a group of hungry and in-form batsmen have produced the goods on favourable pitches and are looking increasingly ready to step in should they be required this season.
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James was the full-time Media Manager at Yorkshire County Cricket Club between 2007 and 2010.
James is a published author and a writer/video contributor to many cricket publications.
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