Proteas

Duminy’s thin ice … it’s cracked!

2017-03-28 11:20
JP Duminy (Getty)

Cape Town – The intensely frustrating, enduring flirtation of JP Duminy with the Test chop must end now.

It’s time, sadly, for “divorce” proceedings instead.

The undoubtedly gifted, occasionally so easy-on-the-eye left-hander, at the age of almost 33, must be left to focus full-heartedly on his still valuable role as a versatile character in the Proteas’ limited-overs plans … even if he has been a little light on runs in one-day internationals of late, too.

At the very, very least, the always questionable experiment with Duminy in the pivotal No 4 Test position has to be ditched immediately.

“Immediately”, of course, is not exactly that, because South Africa are next in Test combat in July and August in England, but it is the next assignment in the grandest format -- and a major one, for the bid over the course of four Tests to pluck back the Basil D’Oliveira Trophy.

There are, worryingly, more widespread batting weaknesses in the XI coming increasingly to light, although those are perhaps more appropriately debated once the Test series in New Zealand has ended on Wednesday.

The Proteas, unless weather intervenes significantly in their favour – and it might, according to forecasts – probably have only a 20 percent chance from here of saving the third Test in Hamilton to ensure 1-0 series triumph.

Their top order looked glaringly brittle all over again as they limped to stumps at 80 for five in their second innings (remember they’d been 97 for four in the first before one of their tenacious fightbacks) – still 95 runs in arrears of their rejuvenated foes.

Captain Faf du Plessis has begun to show signs (15 not out at strike rate 29) of one of his famous drop-anchor efforts, but after attack-minded partner Quinton de Kock - still with him after managing to largely curtail his natural instincts so far - there are only the bowlers left to come.

As for Duminy, the most embattled of all the SA batsmen, his contribution to the desperately-required rearguard action was limited to 13 runs, as he lamely offered no stroke to Jeetan Patel and had his off-stump rattled.

It meant he ended the series with 104 runs from six knocks at a highly unflattering 20.80.

If he is to continue to hang by a thread in the Test team (given the almost jocular suspicion in some circles that he has some sort of lifelong season-ticket), it needs to be at least two rungs lower in the order … although a growing pool of critics will contend with great merit that it is time for a new face in the batting division, full-stop.

Broader statistics do awfully little, regrettably, to justify his retention either at No 4 or in the side more generally.

Already under a cloud in terms of regularity (not!) of delivery, Duminy was unexpectedly elevated to that lofty position – not with any lead-up weight of runs to justify it – from slots mostly varying between five and seven.

The switch began with the early-spring home series against the very same Black Caps, and in the uninterrupted and already generous period of 19 innings (one at No 5) since that controversial nod of confidence, the left-hander has notched only 663 runs at 36.83.

This is conspicuously well less than Kallis-esque, albeit an average that could be deemed borderline acceptable if he were a youngster feeling his way into Test cricket at No 6, for example.

But Duminy is not that – he has become a pretty senior personality in appearance terms, with 45 caps, yet simply not moved to productive new levels despite a multitude of chances.

For the record, and not because it makes any stand-out-in-lights statement, his average at No 4 is slightly higher than a dipping-again overall figure in Tests of 33.64.

The irksome thing is that we all know what he is capable of, even if all too sporadically – that 141 in Perth only a few months ago was a real game-swayer, and there was also, more recently, a big 150-plus at home against Sri Lanka.

Yet there have been so many failures in between, and that instability in his personal performance level has been part of an infection that has grasped hold of one or two others around him.

But that is a story for another day, soon.

*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing

Read more on:    proteas  |  sa in nz  |  jp duminy  |  cricket
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