An embarrassment of bowling riches
It is such a good thing for the South African test team to have bowling options. Batsmen set up victories by scoring runs consistently. It is the bowlers, however, who win matches.
South Africa doesn't have any issues as far as batting is concerned. The batting depth is good and reliable performances from batsmen is rarely a concern. Just for a while, a fear existed that should either Dale Steyn or Morne Morkel get injured the Proteas would be in trouble. This may have been the case sometime back but no longer.
Vernon Philander was the first of the new group of bowlers to emerge. He has been sensational from the start and balanced up the South African bowling attack beautifully. When he got injured in Australia, Rory Kleinveldt came to the fore. Initially it looked like Kleinveldt would struggle at this level after an indifferent first test but he came through strongly in his second test match and has been consistent ever since when given the opportunity.
The match-winning performance from Kyle Abbott in the third test against Pakistan was a pleasant surprise. Abbott was an unlikely inclusion in the test squad. No one thought he would actually play and he wouldn't have had Jacques Kallis not pulled out at the last minute.
Abbott has been putting in regular match-winning performances for the Dolphins. It was good to see that good results in domestic cricket still count for something. He got rewarded for these performances with a test call-up. He applied exactly the same strategy for the Proteas as he has been doing so successfully for the Dolphins and it worked brilliantly.
Let's not forget also that not so long ago Marchant de Lange started in similar fashion in his first test match. Unfortunately he got a stress fracture of the back soon after that and has been out of action for ages. The good news is that he is back. It is further encouraging that he has modified his action and is bowling quickly again. Let's also not forget Lonwabo Tsotsobe. He has been playing in the shorter versions of the game and doing well.
For as long as I can remember, South African cricket has been built around quality fast bowling. The way cricket is played in this country lends itself to the development of good fast bowlers. South African cricket will always revolve around this important aspect of the game.
Few other countries – if any – can boast the resources that South Africa has in this department. Due to these riches, when a key bowler suffers an injury, there will be someone to step into the breach. The current situation also creates healthy competition for bowling spots.
Despite all this talent, someone has to lead the attack. This is where Dale Steyn comes in. One cannot underestimate his value to this bowling attack. Despite all the available talent no one can lead the attack like Dale can. This is something for the pretenders to aspire to.