Cape Town – Make use of a night-watchman, pushing recognised
batsman JP Duminy to No 8 in the order!
LIVE: Sri Lanka v SA
At least statistically, that tactic – though obviously one
governed by circumstance in particular matches – appears to bring the best out
of the Proteas’ steadily blossoming little left-hander in Tests.
Four times in his
25-match career in the format thus far, the Cape Cobras favourite has taken to
the crease as low as No 8 due to prior use in the innings of a night-watchman –
three times Dale Steyn, once Kyle Abbott – and each time Duminy has produced a
healthy dividend for the SA cause.
Pushed deeper into the tail in that slot, he has accumulated
217 runs from the quartet of knocks for only one dismissal, a healthy harvest
that culminated with his maiden century (100 not out) on the Subcontinent in
the ongoing first Test against Sri Lanka at Galle on Thursday.
Although he clearly warrants more regular status a notch or
two higher in the order, and was the initially earmarked No 7 for this match, Duminy
only emphasised once again how, in his slightly altering role as a more active
all-rounder, he is becoming a key “shepherd” for the Proteas’ tail-enders.
That was a role once entrusted to the hands of long-serving
wicketkeeper Mark Boucher.
His methodical, accomplished innings – which saw SA get to
the 450-plus position, batting first, that is so often regarded as likely
security against defeat – was marked by precious stands of 75 and 66 for the
eighth and ninth wickets respectively with Vernon Philander and Morne Morkel.
Duminy’s success as a bumped-down No 8 began when he
registered 48 not out against England at Headingley in 2012, the series which
the Proteas won to advance to No 1 in the world.
Arriving at 318/6 in SA’s first innings, he helped add
another 101 runs to the total, giving it a much more assured final look.
Then in the decisive last Test of that series at Lord’s,
when the hosts pushed uncomfortably hard on the last day for an equalising
victory, Duminy’s 141-minute second innings vigil for 26 not out in the berth
was proved important in delaying England’s fourth-innings drive towards a
target they failed by 52 runs to achieve.
A lot more recently, Duminy was a defiant No 8 again when
the Proteas came so close to saving the crucial third Test against Australia at
Newlands earlier this year, having been significantly outplayed for much of it.
Then he scored 43 in almost 160 minutes before being caught
at leg slip off Mitchell Johnson in the lengthening shadows; it was just
beginning to look as though he and Philander were going to work a game-saving
Helped by now registering two centuries from his last five
Test innings, Duminy is edging closer to the 40-mark for Test average, which
supposedly shifts batsmen from the ranks of just plain “decent” to very good:
he stands at 37.84 from 39 turns at the crease.
*Follow our chief
writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing