TELFORD VICE, Cape Town
TIMING, any cricketer will tell you, is everything – and Wayne Parnell’s was as good as it gets at the weekend.
Parnell was temporarily released from South Africa’s squad before the second test against Sri Lanka at Newlands last week so he could play for the Cobras in their first-class match against the Lions in Oudtshoorn.
The fast bowling, hard hitting left-hander knew his best chance of playing against the Lankans would come in the third test at the Wanderers, which starts on Thursday.
That was the case even before Kyle Abbott came out as a Kolpak defector at Newlands, which cost him his place in the squad.
But it wouldn’t hurt Parnell to put in a conspicuous performance in Oudtshoorn.
That he did, and in fine style.
Having taken 4/26 in the first innings and 2/72 at fewer than three runs an over on a flattening pitch in the second dig, Parnell opened the batting in the Cobras’ second innings and hammered an undefeated 103 to help his team chase down their target of 237 with six wickets standing and 15 balls to spare.
And that after he had made a four-ball duck in his first trip to the crease, when he batted at No. 8.
That kind of thing will get you noticed, whether or not you are in line to play in a test.
It should also quell doubts about a player whose quality has never been questioned but who has struggled to play to his ability more consistently at the highest level.
Was Parnell thinking about all that and what he was doing for his chances of playing at the Wanderers as he hit an attack featuring Hardus Viljoen, Dwaine Pretorius and Aaron Phangiso to all parts of Oudtshoorn’s Recreation Ground?
“I can’t control what’s happening beyond the match that I’m playing in but if you had asked me that two to three years ago I probably would have said, ‘Yes, I was thinking about that’,” Parnell said on Monday.
“But now I’m not focusing on the outcome.
“It’s more about sticking to processes and taking things step by step.
“Whether you’re playing for South Africa or playing for the Cape Cobras you need to put runs on the board or take wickets – it’s about contributing.”
Parnell played the last of his four tests in March 2014, and if he does crack the nod on Thursday those with an eye for bowling mechanics may notice a few changes he has made to his run-up and action since then.
What had he tinkered with?
“Probably a little bit of everything,” Parnell said.
“With bowling being so technical, if you change one thing you affect everything else.
“I needed to get my run-up to a pace where I was comfortable and more stable when I released the ball.
“I’m trying to get the release point more consistent.
“In the longer format it’s about getting balls in a similar area for a long period of time.”
These will sound like basics to anyone familiar with bowling, and doubtless Parnell could recite them in his sleep.
But talking a good game is different from playing it.
Happily, Parnell did the latter in Oudtshoorn.
Now the bigger stage of the Wanderers awaits him.
It’s the perfect place for perfect timing.