Proteas

Right ... who drops out for AB?

2016-11-30 08:50
Stephen Cook (Getty)

Cape Town - The old cliche will tell you that this is a good problem to have, but in truth Proteas management face an unenviable task when selecting their starting XI for the Boxing Day Test against Sri Lanka in Port Elizabeth. 

AB de Villiers, who missed the recent Test series triumph in Australia with an elbow injury, is expected to make his return at St George's Park. 

Identifying who to leave out becomes a huge selection headache for convenor of selectors Linda Zondi and his team. 

Up until the third Test against Australia in Adelaide last week, it looked almost certain that an out-of-form Stephen Cook would be the man to make way. 

He still might be, but the fidgety opening batsman carded a fighting century in the second innings of that day/night Test to answer his critics in the best way possible. 

It was Cook's second century in just six Tests, and he now averages a little less than 40. Those numbers, all of a sudden, make it difficult to leave him out.

De Villiers will almost certainly return to the middle order, meaning that the Proteas would have to find another opening batsman should Cook miss out. 

That could come in the form of Hashim Amla, while Zondi also could not rule out the possibility of Quinton de Kock moving to the top of the order against Sri Lanka. 

There are a number of options - JP Duminy won't be feeling completely safe either - but at this stage not even Zondi knows what is going to happen.

"I'm not sure at the moment," an honest Zondi told Sport24.

"All of our batters have done well. It’s a matter of us putting our heads together and then coming up with a plan that will benefit South Africa.

"We are in a better position. We have a world class player and we need to see how we can make sure that he is part of the team moving forward. We are not going to shy away from making a decision."

Zondi acknowledged he and his team had "a lot to think about", but he said it was not entirely unfamiliar territory. 

"We were in a similar position back before we left for Australia," said Zondi.

"We had a captain who got injured and we had to bring in a stand-in captain who was not in the starting line-up."

The difference now is that De Villiers, when fit, can never be left out of this team. 

He simply must play as the Proteas look to continue their path up the Test rankings. 

At this stage, it seems like the only batters in danger are Cook, Duminy and perhaps Dean Elgar. All three of those players carded crucially important centuries during the Australia series.

"It is a nice problem to have, but I trust that the panel and everyone involved will come up with a decision that best suits the team and we will make sure it puts us in a better position to win against Sri Lanka," Zondi said.

Good luck ...

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Fixtures
26 December 2016
South Africa v Sri Lanka, Port Elizabeth 10:00
02 January 2017
South Africa v Sri Lanka, Cape Town 10:00
12 January 2017
South Africa v Sri Lanka, Johannesburg 10:00
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