Olivier confident to the tips of his toes

Times Media


TELFORD VICE, Dunedin

A pair of trainers, hot pink in the front, electric blue behind, stood near the boundary of University Oval’s lush green outfield in Dunedin on Monday.

They were size 13, and attached to the best part of the two metres directly above them was Duanne Olivier. 

On a practice pitch out in the middle, amid a careful arrangement of brightly coloured plastic cones, another two metres of prime fast bowler huffed and puffed and tried to blow down the house of pain he has lived in for the past few months.

Morne Morkel, freshly recovered from the bulging disc in his back that has meant he last played a test more than a year ago, clearly relished being able to move freely again.

South Africa’s XI for the first test against New Zealand on Wednesday is unlikely to feature both Morkel and Olivier.

Which of them might crack the nod in an attack that will surely include left-arm spinner Keshav Maharaj?

Morkel has played 71 tests, but questions over his fitness cloud the issue.

Olivier has only one cap to his credit, but he made it count – taking match figures of 5/57 against Sri Lanka at the Wanderers in January.

“If I play it will be a great opportunity; if I don’t of course I understand,” Olivier said, and reminded the reporters listening to him that the squad also included Chris Morris and Wayne Parnell, who were part of South Africa’s successful one-day squad in New Zealand.

A concrete grey dome of a sky hovered over the scene, utterly unchinked by sunlight.

It contrasted sharply with the pitch being prepared for the match, which even in the gloom glowed oddly like those vegan smoothies Morkel has confessed to drinking.

“It looks quite green out there, conditions very different to South Africa,” Olivier said.

“In the nets it was a bit low and slow but with sideways movement.”

All around, air several degrees south of room temperature kept hands thrust into pockets.

And this, mind, in summer.

Olivier is on his first trip to New Zealand. What had South Africa’s players who had been before told him to expect in Dunedin?

“They said it’s quite cold here, that’s why we’re dressed quite warmly,” he said from the snugness of a full tracksuit.

“Other than that, they said you need to bowl a fuller length here.

“If you bowl short it just sits up.”

Olivier took 52 wickets at 18.13 for the Knights in the 2016-17 franchise first-class season.

Many of them were claimed with the kind of short-pitched aggression that generations of South African quicks have relied on.

But that approach is unlikely to get results in New Zealand, and especially not in Dunedin.

Did Olivier think he could tailor his bowling accordingly?

“You try to adapt as quickly as possible but back home there are certain grounds where you need to bowl fuller as well,” he said. “I’m confident of doing that.”

Confident? In those shoes, he had to be.

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