Rossouw in line for Test spot at WACA?

2016-10-13 08:55
Rilee Rossouw (Gallo).

Cape Town - Things can change so quickly. 

Just two months ago the Proteas were in disarray. 

But a Test series win over New Zealand and a historic 5-0 ODI series whitewash against Australia later, and all is well once more in the land of leather and willow. 

Under the leadership of Faf du Plessis, this Proteas ODI side has made serious strides over the past couple of weeks. 

Aussie captain Steve Smith summed it up after Wednesday's thrilling fifth ODI at Newlands. 

"We've been outplayed in all five games in every facet of the game," he said. 

Pretty much. 

From top to bottom, the Proteas looked the real deal. 

Quinton de Kock at the top of the order was immense in the early stages and he was aided by the classy Rilee Rossouw in the first two matches. 

Rossouw, eventually moved down the order to accommodate the returning Hashim Amla, finished the series as South Africa's leading run scorer with 311 at an average of 77.75. 

Du Plessis has grown into the captaincy with his form rising to the occasion too, JP Duminy has shown great improvement with both bat and ball and the Proteas have unearthed a potentially explosive all-rounder in the form of Andile Phehlukwayo. 

Tabraiz Shamsi took his chance in his only ODI of the series, Kyle Abbott returned with a bang to keep Dale Steyn and Kagiso Rabada on their toes and David Miller's heroics in Durban reaffirmed his seemingly limitless ability.

All of a sudden the ODI set-up looks as healthy as ever. 

But attention now moves swiftly back to Test cricket, where the Proteas are preparing for a three-match series in Australia starting on November 3. 

Selection is set to get interesting. 

The Proteas must choose a top six for what is always a flat WACA strip, and Rossouw may very well have complicated matters. 

Presuming that De Kock slots in at No 7 and that there are four spots (8-11) given to the bowlers, there is room for six specialist batters. 

Temba Bavuma has nailed down the No 6 spot, while Amla will bat at 3. 

Du Plessis came in at No 5, behind JP Duminy at No 4, and presuming that stays the same for the Australia series then Rossouw's only path to a Test debut could be via the opening berth.

Stephen Cook, with just three Tests to his name, has not done a whole lot wrong and will surely keep one of those slots while the dogged Dean Elgar returns from injury. 

It might be harsh to contemplate an Elgar omission given that the 29-year-old was one of the better top order players to emerge from a tough summer at home to England, but he only boasts a Test average of 36 through 26 caps.

The other option would be to back Cook and Elgar at the top of the order and make room for Rossouw in the middle order by sidelining Duminy. 

The immediate reluctance in doing that comes in the knowledge that Duminy offers an option with the ball, but that may not be such a big factor with Elgar's slow left-arm to fall back on. 

Still, it is hard to see the selectors dropping Duminy now after they have waited so long for him to find his feet again.

Rossouw, who has proven his flexibility, has been in such superb form and will surely be on the radar even if his success has come against a depleted Australian attack.

He is striking the ball better than anybody, and if he is not ready now, then when? 

There are concerns over his still-fractured finger, and he acknowledged batting through moments of pain on his way to 122 at Newlands on Wednesday, but presuming that is all taken care of ahead of the first Test it would take a brave man to leave Rossouw out given the elegance, timing and flawless technique he has displayed over the past fortnight. 

"He's our best player," Du Plessis said only half-jokingly when asked about Rossouw's chances of playing in the opening Test. 

The skipper then got more serious, saying that Rossouw would be in contention, but when a player is hitting the ball as sweetly as Rossouw is right now, as a captain you surely want him in the middle as often as possible.

"If I'm included it will be a fantastic day for me, but if I'm not it won't be the end of the world," Rossouw said on Wednesday.

"I'll still wait for my opportunity to get a chance to play Test cricket."

That opportunity, if that finger holdscould be just around the corner. 

Read more on:    proteas  |  rilee rossouw  |  cricket

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