Kleinveldt proves he is the perfect stand-in
PORT ELIZABETH — Bowler Rory Kleinveldt has gone from out-of-place to in-your-face in three Test matches. In the batsman’s face, that is.
He has won two of his caps as an injury replacement for Vernon Philander and he cannot entertain hopes of displacing Philander, Morné Morkel or Dale Steyn from the South African attack. But he has done the next best thing and proved himself worthy of a place in that attack if and when he is required.
Kleinveldt took eight wickets in the 65.1 overs he bowled in two Tests against Australia and New Zealand after his underwhelming debut on a flaccid Gabba pitch in November.
All but one of those wickets belonged to batsmen in the top six. Mostly, he struck with quality deliveries rather than benefited from batting errors.
"I thought he bowled beautifully," Dale Steyn said at the weekend after Kleinveldt had removed New Zealand’s Martin Guptill and Daniel Flynn in two deliveries in the second Test in Port Elizabeth.
"Every time he gets the opportunity he seems to grab it with both hands," Steyn said.
Kleinveldt, who made his debut for South Africa in a Twenty20 match against Bangladesh at the Wanderers in 2008-09, but has played just four more games in that format, has come a long way in a short time as a Test bowler.
"Conditions were foreign in Australia and I didn’t understand how to bowl in them," Kleinveldt said of his debut. "Playing against a proper batting line-up in the Australian team, it was tough."
A return of 1/178 in 41.1 overs from his first two innings is not the stuff Test bowlers are made of. But Kleinveldt silenced the doubters by knocking over the entire Aussie top order in the second innings in Adelaide, and he was a consistent threat to the admittedly inept New Zealanders in Port Elizabeth.
For all that, Kleinveldt knew he was keeping Philander’s spot warm while he recovered from an injury.
"It’s a bit tough when Vernon’s at mid-off, because he just says, ‘Bowl at the top of off-stump and get him out.’ It’s a lot easier for him."
Over his other shoulder, Kleinveldt had an eye on the rest of the franchise pace pack.
"Chris Morris, Hardus Viljoen and Bueran Hendricks are very exciting talents, so you have to be on your toes every time you put a South Africa cap on and you have to perform."
Kleinveldt should get more opportunity to shine in the one-day series against the Black Caps, which starts in Paarl on Saturday. But Philander will be ready to reclaim his place in the XI for the first Test against Pakistan at the Wanderers on February 1.
"Vernon’s the No2 bowler in the world, so it’s understandable," Kleinveldt said: "All I can do is keep working hard and keep myself available for if someone goes down."
Meanwhile, in the absence of swift justice, Lions batting prodigy Quinton de Kock might yet be available for the start of the one-day series against New Zealand on Saturday.
De Kock is in the dock after allegedly pushing the Cobras’ Alistair Gray in the four-day match that the visitors won by eight wickets at Newlands last weekend.
When exactly the hearings will take place, was still up in the air on Tuesday. "I’m not sure when the hearing will take place. The people outside cricket are very busy," Cricket South Africa spokesman Michael Owen-Smith said.
With Liam del Carme
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