Cape Town – JP Duminy will play his 100th one-day
international for South Africa when they tackle Sri Lanka in the first of five
contests in Colombo on Saturday (11:00 SA time) ... and probably with a new
challenge awaiting him.
It seems he is to get a run in the No 3 position, a
situation only boosted by his success there in Wednesday’s warm-up encounter
with a Sri Lankan Board President’s XI, where the Proteas had posted a tidy 271
for six from their 50 overs at the time of writing.
In a slightly unexpected move – although it had already been
publicly indicated that captain AB de Villiers was going to return to his
favoured No 4 berth – Duminy took to the crease at first wicket down, and
rattled up a sprightly 92 off 100 balls.
So there is every likelihood the move will be repeated when
the diminutive 29-year-old plays his personal landmark game on Saturday,
particularly as national selection chief Andrew Hudson told Sport24 he feels No
3 is potentially a “great position” for Duminy.
Previously, Duminy has mostly been employed in the middle of
the order, around No 5 or 6, and regarded as one of the team’s designated
finishers in the ODI format.
But now he is being empowered to get into the action much
closer to the front, and if the line-up for the warm-up is any yardstick – as
it probably should be? – then the Proteas plan a revamped top six in the
following order at least initially against the Lankans: Hashim Amla, Alviro
Petersen, Duminy, De Villiers, Faf du Plessis and David Miller.
That spells bad news
for the time being, it seems, for the enigmatic left-hander Colin Ingram, who
had another patchy tournament recently when South Africa were eliminated by
England at the semi-final phase of the ICC Champions Trophy.
Ingram was asked to open the innings then and did not manage
to set the world alight in the unfamiliar role, although he batted beautifully
in notching 73 in the thrilling Duckworth/Lewis tie against West Indies in
Hudson said the restoration of Petersen, Graeme Smith’s opening
partner at Test level, upfront was designed to restore “a bit of a solid look” to
that alliance, where only Amla at ODI level has shown the necessary consistency
in recent times.
All of the top five batsmen in the warm-up fixture had
useful turns at the crease, and although the hard-hitting Miller was dismissed
for two at No 6, his exit came during the end-of-knock slog.
Along with many Proteas supporters, hungry to see the
country add limited-overs mastery to their current No 1 status in the Test
arena, Hudson’s panel are pinning their hopes on a competitive showing from the
troops in Sri Lanka, where many previous Proteas sides have come a cropper.
South Africa are currently ranked fourth and the Lankans
fifth in ODIs.
Yet a rare triumph on the Spice Island would be a pleasing
result in those conditions, especially bearing in mind that when Sri Lanka last
toured our shores two summers back, they ran the hosts close in a 3-2 ODI
Hudson admitted that some critics might view the SA squad
picked for the Sri Lankan assignment as “fairly conservative” considering the
hiccups experienced in recent series or tournaments, but that the players
should “go and do the business” following the overwhelming vote of confidence
in current resources.
“We have sent a message ‘we think you are good enough’,” Hudson
“There is certainly a wish for greater consistency, but if
we become inconsistent in selection as well, then it doesn’t necessarily
transmit a great message to the squad.
“You may see the odd change to the XI itself if players
aren’t performing (in Sri Lanka), but at the same time we believe we have
identified roughly the correct 15 to 18 players to do a job for us in the
The Duminy “experiment” at first drop will certainly be
tracked with interest – the left-hander did not have the happiest of times at
the Champions Trophy, but he was also probably still finding his feet again
after his long-term injury, and his quality can hardly be questioned.
The Cape Cobras favourite has operated in the position just
four times before, twice against minnows Zimbabwe – he registered his
second-highest ODI score of 129 at Benoni from there in 2010 – and a further
two occasions against England away a year ago, when he scored 14 and 18.
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