SA in New Zealand
Alviro fights for England ticket
Cape Town - Alviro Petersen is inching his way closer to ensuring his passage to South Africa’s high-stakes Test series in England later this year.
The right-handed opening batsman played the predominantly cautious, anchor role for the Proteas after they were sent in to bat in tricky, damp conditions on a weather-curtailed day one of the final Test against New Zealand at Wellington on Friday.
It was thanks in no small part to his tenacity, if not necessarily standout technique or stroke-play, that the tourists, defending a 1-0 lead in the three-match series, were able to close at the Basin Reserve comfortably placed at 136 for two from 42 overs.
Petersen has not even reached a half-century yet, having used up 113 deliveries for his unbeaten 44, but his watchful cricket has been commendable under the circumstances – he was happy to let Hashim Amla be the “dominator” in his own bright innings of 63 - and the national selectors may be a lot closer to convinced that he warrants his spot on the England tour, the next challenge at five-day level.
The Lions stalwart had not really fired in four previous Test knocks in this series, raising some rightful fresh doubts about the opening berth alongside captain Graeme Smith; it has been a problematic area for the otherwise largely smooth-firing national side for a while.
He is at that phase, in the 13th Test of an already interrupted career, where you want a player in his responsible position to be really coming into his own, and if he goes on to get a truly big score in this innings or match, he will look so much more worthy a candidate for the England assignment.
There are certain parallels, after all, between the minor current uncertainty over a position at the helm of the order and the situation faced on a previous tour of England in 1998.
In a closely-contested five-match series then, South Africa lost 2-1 with a major bugbear for them being the failure to get decent first-wicket partnerships throughout it.
Gary Kirsten, the current coach, was pretty settled in one of the opening slots, but even he struggled for consistency in the series, a solitary knock of 210 at Manchester surrounded by a number of negligible totals from the left-hander.
The primary weak link, however, was his rookie partner Gerhardus Liebenberg, the Free Stater who registered only 59 runs in the series from six innings and quickly disappeared back into the domestic first-class environment afterwards.
It needs to be said that Petersen has already demonstrated, unlike Liebenberg, that he can play - and then some, even - at the highest level.
He sports two Test centuries, including one on debut in Kolkata, and mixes times of unease with others of marked confidence and panache.
Batting conditions have been fairly “English” at the outset of the decisive Basin Reserve encounter, so Petersen’s durability thus far has been especially encouraging.
Particularly with Jacques Kallis an unexpected late absentee from the Test, the 31-year-old going on to a truly meaty score would be worth its weight in gold.
And most definitely get him onto that mid-year plane ...*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing