We need a real opener

2010-01-11 10:13
Arthur Turner
Arthur Turner

Lighting struck twice in the form of Graham Onions at Supersport Park and Newlands, and now the best the Proteas can do is save the series. England have been out played in two of the three Tests, yet are one nil up in the series. It is a bitter pill to swallow. But that is Test cricket and the reason it is special.

Graeme Smith missed a trick or two tactically at Newlands on the last day. The spinners opened the game for him late on the last afternoon, and it was a mistake to replace them both with his fast bowlers who failed to finish off the tail. He should have bowled one spinner in tandem with the fast bowlers. Also, he could have applied pressure earlier than he did using his field placing. He waited until the last hour to do it.

The experiment of opening with Ashwell Prince has been a failure - he has only scored 78 runs in the series at an average of 13. The opening position is an important one and the Proteas need to develop a tried and tested combination by selecting a recognized opener to partner Smith against the new ball. The selectors have made use of make-shift openers for too long and need to solve the problem long term.

The best two candidates for this position are Alviro Petersen, who is currently in the squad, and Jacques Rudolf, who has returned to South Africa after an extended spell in county cricket with Yorkshire.

Petersen deserves to be the first choice after his good performances in the ODI matches against England. Rudolph, who has played 35 Tests for South Africa, with an average of 36.2, is now a mature batter who has an important role to play in the future.

Prince should be reinstated at number five in the order – a position he occupied so successfully until his injury in 2008, scoring 960 runs at an average of 64. Prince is to the Proteas what Paul Collingwood is to England in the middle order. They are both fighters who bring stability to the batting line up. In the current team only Smith and Jacques Kallis have a better Test average than him.

This would mean JP Duminy being left out, and AB de Villiers batting at number six, re-igniting the debate on whether de Villiers should be the wicketkeeper in place of Mark Boucher. I don’t think Villiers should keep in Test cricket as he is too good a batter and is the next generation key Test batsman for South Africa. Also, Boucher has had a good Test series against England. But ODI’S remain another matter.

The selectors need to get the balance of the team right for the Wanderers, especially with the bowling attack. With Friedel de Wet not able to play because of injury, the selectors should give the twenty year old Wayne Parnell his first cap. He will not only bring a different dimension to the attack but is an investment for the future.

The Wanderers Test looms large for South Africa if they are to save a series they do not deserve to loose. 

Arthur is a former cricket administrator and current player agent.

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