Proteas allrounder spot causing Gibson stress

Ottis Gibson (Head Coach) during the South African national cricket team training session and press conference at PPC Newlands on January 29, 2019 in Cape Town, South Africa.
Ottis Gibson (Head Coach) during the South African national cricket team training session and press conference at PPC Newlands on January 29, 2019 in Cape Town, South Africa.
Image: Grant Pitcher/Gallo Images

Ottis Gibson is stressed. The World Cup is four months away and he still doesn’t know who is South Africa’s first-choice batting allrounder.

And that despite the presence of more than one of the leading contenders in the fifth one-day international against Pakistan at Newlands on Wednesday.

“We thought today was an opportunity to play all three and see how they go; almost like a playoff‚ I guess‚” Gibson said in Cape Town after the match.

Andile Phehlukwayo‚ Dwaine Pretorius and Wiaan Mulder bowled well enough. They all took wickets and only Mulder‚ who played his first game for South Africa since September because of an Achilles injury‚ went for more than a run a ball.

But none of them batted. There wasn’t any batting to do after Quinton de Kock scored 83 and Faf du Plessis and Rassie van der Dussen made an unbeaten 50 each to complete the highest successful chase in a day/nighter at Newlands.

South Africa’s reply to Pakistan’s 240/8 was a convincing 241/3 in 40 overs‚ which earned the home side the series 3-2.

Van der Dussen made his debut in the series and was the find of the rubber with the 93 and 80 not out he made before Wednesday’s half-century.

The way he has scored those runs has made an impression on Gibson: “When he’s needed to be aggressive he’s been aggressive He’s very calm at the wicket.

“The pressure doesn’t seem to affect him in any way. It’s comfortable sitting there watching knowing he’s at the crease.”

Gibson was also satisfied with how well his team had taken firm control of the deciding match in a series in which some of their weaknesses had earlier been exposed‚ particularly on the batting front.

They appear to have confronted those challenges and responded by playing their best cricket when it mattered most.

“We played the game with aggressive intent by the bowlers — a lot of short stuff and a slip in for a long time — and we established and maintained a runrate when we were batting‚” Gibson said about Newlands match.

“We wanted to finish the game in 40 overs because we want to play that positive brand of cricket‚ and the pitch allowed us to do that.”

All good. But that doesn’t help unclutter his mind about the allrounder’s spot.

“Have we answered any questions? Maybe not‚ but at least we got to see them bowl together.

“We know they can bat. We just need to know which one of them is good enough to score at [No. 7] and score the sort of runs we want.

“We didn’t get to see that tonight‚ and the search for an allrounder continues‚ I guess.”

Was having to deal with that uncertainty‚ and the fact that quality players like Lungi Ngidi and JP Duminy working to return from injuries in time to make the World Cup squad‚ stressful?

“Yes.”

Gibson doesn’t struggle for words. So it means a lot when he stops at one.

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