Cape Town - Panic can lead to ill-advised,
sometimes excessive measures ... but inertia also has to be spiritedly guarded
against for a consistently embattled Test cricket team.
South Africa are very much still stuck in a
fragile mental rut, following a thumping 241-run defeat in the first of four
contests against England at Kingsmead - a now quite abject hoodoo home venue -
The Proteas were only able to last out an
hour and 40 minutes with their remaining six wickets on the final day, as they
ended with yet another paltry total following their earlier, routine woes at
the crease in India.
Clearly the overwhelming majority of their
troubles lie in the batting department; former captain Graeme Smith did remind
in his role as a SuperSport pundit afterwards that the bowlers largely “have
been doing the 20-wickets job over the last period of time”.
Although Chris Morris has been hastily
added to the squad for the fast turnaround to Newlands on Saturday - along with
the expected recall of wicketkeeper/batsman Quinton de Kock - it seems to make
pretty good sense for the Proteas to make just one alteration to their likely
four-man specialist attack, with Kagiso Rabada coming in for Dale Steyn.
The ageing Phalaborwa Express, regrettably,
looks a desperately long shot to be able to get through five days so soon after
breaking down with a shoulder injury during the Durban fixture, although he
remains in a now 15-strong party.
So the bottom four in the team should
comprise Messrs Rabada, Abbott, Piedt and Morkel, in whatever order the brains
trust choose to assemble the unavoidably iffy tail.
But it is higher up that all sorts of
headaches exist, given the collective, glaring shortfall in both confidence and
form by a handful of batsmen.
Frankly, I don’t believe South Africa can
afford to stick too en masse with
such a swollen group of currently skittish customers, so the potential exists -
and probably should be exploited - for them not only to recall to the XI the
prodigiously talented De Kock (including assuming the glovework from premier
stroke-player AB de Villiers) but finally allow for a Test debut by Rilee
Both he and De Kock are highly positive
batsmen by nature - they have demonstrated it in volumes at one-day
international level - and that is a quality the Proteas need with some
urgency, even whilst acknowledging the duo’s combined inexperience on the Test
Rossouw, the tall left-hander from
Bloemfontein, 26, has patiently awaited his turn in the five-day arena, after
amassing 5 508 first-class runs at just under 45 and deserves a crack in the middle
He has a bit of a reputation for being
vulnerable to swift dismissal, but when he gets properly set he is also well
capable of staying at the crease for really lengthy periods of time (a domestic
triple-century rests among his statistics) and building into a crescendo of
It seems the controversial intention is to
stick for the moment with Stiaan van Zyl as an opener, despite his obvious
better suitability to a slot a bit further down; he did produce some pulsating
shots during a second knock of 33 at Kingsmead.
Van Zyl also adds some value as an
occasional choke-the-runs medium-pacer, a far from unimportant consideration
when you bear in mind the lack of a proper all-rounder in the SA arsenal and
the resultant extra pressure on the specialist quartet of bowlers.
So if Rossouw is to be accommodated at
Newlands along with the near shoo-in De Kock, it seriously endangers all of the
misfiring trio of Faf du Plessis, Temba Bavuma and JP Duminy.
Kepler Wessels made valid mention of the fact
that Du Plessis seems to have become just too bogged down in “survival cricket”
right now, despite his already-known qualities as a scrapper.
He is too good a player - not to mention
excellent fielder, something the Proteas also cannot afford to shed too lightly
– to stay down for long, but the time somehow seems appropriate to withdraw him
from the firing line and expect a bounce-back response, perhaps via some meaty
showings in the Sunfoil Series.
If Du Plessis was dropped, then one of Bavuma
and Duminy may also have to make way.
Duminy’s cause is assisted by the fact that
he is experienced and knows Newlands so well, was the lone meaningful resister
on Wednesday morning (26 not out off 59 balls), and offers additional off-spin
to the mix - although there seems to be a mysterious lack of faith in that
particular string to his bow at present.
Then again, he has been skating on thin ice
at Test level for some time, whilst Bavuma is in his infancy for the Proteas
and it would be cruel to jettison him too quickly.
But desperate times do call for tough
remedial measures, and desperation almost certainly has engulfed the SA Test
SA team (three changes) for Newlands, based on revised, enlarged squad named:
Stiaan van Zyl, Dean Elgar, Hashim Amla, AB de Villiers, Rilee
Rossouw, JP Duminy/Temba Bavuma, Quinton de Kock, Kagiso Rabada, Kyle Abbott,
Dane Piedt, Morne Morkel
our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing