WAYNE Parnell’s return to the national one-day international team, and indeed to form, is something the Proteas can savour and nurture in their pursuit for International Cricket Council (ICC) silverware.
Like bandits at the top of the FBI’s most-wanted list, left-arm seamers come with a handsome reward. In six of the 11 editions of the quadrennial World Cup, left-arm seamers have been the top wicket takers, including the last two in Australia and India and the last one held in Britain in 1999.
With next year’s ICC Champions Trophy taking place in England, the Proteas’ fortunes have taken somewhat of a positive turn in the 50-over format.
Of course, Parnell alone will not win SA the trophy but it appears he has found the consistency that has eluded him in his 54-match ODI career.
He is also held in high regard by former Australian cricketer Geoff “Henry” Lawson, who once said: “Parnell is a very similar bowler to [Trent] Boult in many ways; in action and swing. From the outside looking in, it looks like he should be an outstanding bowler.”
What should double Parnell’s value is that he can swing a bat purposefully, something Australian left-arm paceman Mitchell Starc and New Zealand’s Boult cannot boast about.
“The massive thing for me was game time and playing consistently,” said Parnell. “Any cricketer can tell you, you can practice for hours in the nets but you can never replicate game time.
“Over the last 12 months, where I’ve been playing domestic cricket week in, week out and putting in good performances, I’ve gained confidence. Sport is all about confidence.
“Everyone has their own opinion on how I should play my cricket but it’s about fitting into the setup, firstly as part of the bowling unit. Playing matches, though, is key for any cricketer.”
The tenuous squad Australia brought to these shores cannot disguise that Parnell has found his range in a Proteas jumper, seven years after his ODI debut against the Aussies in Perth.
At the Wanderers he was the pick of the South African attack with figures of 3/40, as the hosts humiliated Australia with a 142-run defeat.
Bowling George Bailey also felt particularly satisfying because he set a plan and followed through with it maturely.
“It’s always nice to come out and correct your mistakes in the match following an average game. It’s really pleasing,” said Parnell.
“Cricket is a funny game; you’re a hero today and tomorrow you’re the villain. It’s just about trying to tick boxes and trying to do the right things more often than not — that’s what makes people more successful,” he said.
“I tried to bowl a little shorter at the Wanderers because I felt I was a little too full in Centurion. The angle when you’re coming around the wicket and the extra bounce that you get inland was something I identified as something that could work for me.
“I was pleased that I executed it in the manner me and the bowling coach Charl Langeveldt had planned.
“But it’s going to be completely different in Durban.”
The Proteas can wrap up the five-match series at Kingsmead on Wednesday and could push for an unprecedented whitewash thereafter. The tools are all there, and rising kingpin Andile Phehlukwayo will play on his home turf.
“Coming into the ODI arena against Australia presents a nice challenge but he’s got a big future ,” Parnell said.