Modest paceman Parnell ahead of his time

Wayne Parnell’s long-term aim when he was a junior international cricketer was to make sure he was in South Africa’s 30-man squad for the 2011 World Cup in Asia.

It was fair to say, after the 19-year-old left-arm quick took four wickets for 13 runs in the Proteas’ World Twenty20 win over the West Indies at the Oval here on Saturday, that the teenager was on course to achieve that goal.

Reflecting on his latest impressive display—which saw Parnell record the equal fifth-best Twenty20 international figures of all time—the modest paceman told reporters: “I was just backing my
skills and staying calm.”

He added there had been nothing spectacular about his introduction to cricket.

“I played in the park, played in the yard and then I moved on to the hard ball.”

But Parnell was not just any old—or indeed young—schoolboy cricketer.

Educated at Port Elizabeth’s Grey High School—whose former pupils also include South Africa greats Graeme and Peter Pollock, as well as current Proteas’ off-spinner Johan Botha—much has long been expected of Parnell.

The leading South African schoolboy cricketer of his generation, Parnell captained South African schools for two years and in the process had to skipper players older than himself.

After leading South Africa to the Under-19 World Cup final in Malaysia last year, where they were beaten by India, Parnell was stunned to hear team coach Ray Jennings say his captain was ready for senior international cricket.

But the judgement of Jennings, a former coach of the South Africa Test side, was not long in being proved correct.

Parnell played the first of his four one-day internationals, all so far against Australia, in January this year.

And in only in his second match at that level he took four for 25 at Centurion—a haul including Australia captain Ricky Ponting and fellow top order batsmen Michael Clarke and Michael Hussey—in a seven-wicket win.

Earlier this season, a stint with English county side Kent—where former South Africa coach Graham Ford is in charge—saw Parnell familiarise himself with English conditions.

“Having played here prior to this tournament helped me get used to the pitches. But generally the white ball doesn’t swing here so obviously I had to drag the length back a bit.”

Parnell, who for several years has been logging the details of all the overs he’s bowled, put that knowledge to good use earlier this week.

He took three wickets for just 14 runs against England as South Africa, unbeaten at the tournament so far, began their second round Super Eights programme with a crushing seven-wicket win over the hosts at Trent Bridge.

But new visa rules introduced by Britain’s Home Office may prove a tougher nut to crack if Parnell is to play for Kent again this season—that is if South Africa let him.

“At the moment something has been put forward by Kent but the whole visa issue is probably the biggest challenge now,” Parnell said.

Meanwhile, there remains one notable omission on Parnell’s otherwise impressive CV.

He has yet to play Test cricket although a debut for the strong South Africa side in the five-day game would appear to be merely a matter of time.

“The biggest challenge for me will be bowling against the likes of Ricky Ponting [in a Test match],” he said. “Then I will see where I am.” - Sapa-AFP


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