The Proteas’ short ODI series against England showed one thing: they need to get their balance right.
Coach Russell Domingo seems to believe the winning recipe is using South Africa’s abundance of all-rounders.
But isn’t bowling firepower better on the expected batting friendly pitches of the ICC Champions Trophy.
We debate the issue before the Proteas’ first match against Sri Lanka on Saturday.
KEN BORLAND SAYS: The all-rounder situation is a blessing
Much like in the 1990s and early 2000s, South African cricket finds itself in the situation where many of their best bowlers also happen to be handy with the bat.
This all-round strength is actually a blessing that should be embraced.
With both the No 1 and No 2 ranked bowlers in their attack – Kagiso Rabada and Imran Tahir – there is plenty of specialist strength and Chris Morris and Wayne Parnell are both seasoned new-ball bowlers for their franchises.
Andile Phehlukwayo has honed the skills of a limited-overs specialist and, with the bat, has shown a priceless ability to get the Proteas through some extremely sticky situations.
The power-hitting of Morris is also very important to have at number seven.
Dwaine Pretorius is his natural back-up and provides something a bit different with his cutters and medium-pace.
There are situations, however, when one of the all-rounders should make way for either Morne Morkel or Keshav Maharaj, himself a dangerous lower-order batsman.
On a fast pitch offering bounce, Morkel could be a handful, while conditions warranting two specialist spinners would see Maharaj being considered.
Most top teams these days have capable batsmen down No 9.
It’s a strength South Africa should use to their advantage.
HEINZ SCHENK SAYS: Be brave and pick specialist bowlers
I’ve always been a bit of a bowler fan.
There’s nothing more beautiful on a cricket field than a bowler snapping up three or four wickets during a 50-over match.
Yes, we loved Kagiso Rabada’s spell at Lord’s earier this week – he took 4/39 – because it laid the platform for a Proteas victory.
But it was also awesome just see a battle between bat and ball where the ball won.
Fundamentally, that’s still what cricket is about.
However, South Africa shouldn’t pick an extra specialist bowler like Morne Morkel because of philosophy.
They should do so because it’s arguably the best way to win matches in this tournament.
The pitches that will be prepared will be batter-friendly.
The ICC wants entertaining run fests that will draw crowds and as a result it’s tempting to lengthen your batting order.
South Africa’s logic is that the all-rounders allows them to chase down totals of 320-plus.
Yet we saw against England what scoreboard pressure does: it doesn’t make a chase of 340 easy.
So, on pitches where a total of 300 is par, how do you keep the score down?
You take wickets.
The Proteas won’t mind Morkel or Rabada or Imran Tahir taking 4/50 in 8 overs if that means they bowl the opposition out for 230 in 40 overs.
Morkel’s strike rate in ODIs means he takes two wickets almost every innings.
He’s a wicket-taking bowler and he’ll add great firepower.
And frankly, do South Africa need to bat down to No 9 or 10 when you have a batting order of De Kock, Amla, Du Plessis, De Villiers and Miller?