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Proteas XI: McLaren v Abbott?

2014-02-28 12:38

Cape Town – Graeme Smith studiously avoided dropping hints about South Africa’s team composition for the Test series decider against Australia at his captain’s press conference at Newlands here on Friday.

Getting the mix right could be crucial to the Proteas’ chances of becoming the first SA side since 1969/70 to win a home series against these opponents.

Reading between the lines – though even that can be hazardous at times – it would appear that the chances of specialist spinner Robin Peterson being included have only receded, if anything, and that with cooler and possibly slightly moist, overcast conditions tipped for the first two days’ play, the hosts will stick to a four-seamer principle and put their turning faith in part-timers JP Duminy and Dean Elgar.

The only anticipated alteration to the “seven batsmen” formula will be the return of fit-again Alviro Petersen to the top of the order, with rookie Quinton de Kock dropping out and Elgar returning, a little unfortunately perhaps, to a middle order slot where he is less suited.

Perhaps the most tantalising remaining question, against that backdrop, is which of Kyle Abbott, Rory Kleinveldt or Ryan McLaren will then do the job of fitting in for luckless Newlands absentee Wayne Parnell.

Good knowledge of local conditions works in favour of Cape Cobras stalwart Kleinveldt, but he has wrestled some minor fitness concerns of his own of late and if there is the slightest doubt, he is simply not worth fielding on this critical occasion where Smith rightly says the “eyes of the world” will be focussed.

That would leave a shootout between McLaren, who played in the heavy first-Test reverse at Centurion and was pole-axed by Mitchell Johnson while batting on the borderline dangerous surface, and in-form Sunfoil Series factor Abbott for the vacancy.

A personal view is that the Proteas should go for the jugular and give the ambitious Abbott his keenly-awaited second cap at this level, for unrelenting firepower from the pace division.

But McLaren, who would also be less pressured as a batsman because he would only be required at No 8 rather than seven this time, remains a decent option and possibly the likelier one given the conservative yet simultaneously pretty clear-cut way the Proteas structure their pecking order in Test terms.

If the ground is enveloped by fair amounts of cloud up front in this Test match and the temperature stays as expected only in the low twenties -- after earlier heat-wave conditions in this city – then seamers who can bowl accurately on a fullish length could see some rewards and McLaren fits that bill quite nicely.

The Proteas would also boast comforting general batting depth against Johnson and company, with McLaren and Vernon Philander (or the other way around) occupying the spots as low as eight and nine.

Smith said in his assessment of the pitch: “(Newlands) can get a bit slow and flat towards the back end of Tests if it’s hot, but it has changed a little bit of late; there’s maybe a little more in it than in the past, to my memory.

“This one looks like a good Test wicket, good for the game and offering a bit to both bat and ball.”

Would it have any hallmarks similar to the one that earned some infamy for the Aussies’ 47 all out fate in the last Test at the ground between the sides?

“I can see that the groundsman (Evan Flint) has spent an extensive amount of time preparing this wicket. There’s obviously been some really hot weather coming into the game.

“But it’s also a different time of year, you know; it was November or so when we played that previous game and they’d also replaced a lot of the bulli in the pitch just before that game. I think it has settled down a lot since that time.”

Asked very directly for news on his XI, Smith replied: “We’ve got an idea where we want to go; Russell (Domingo, the coach) is meeting Andrew (Hudson, the selection chief) at 15:00 and it will be confirmed then.

“I am getting a little reluctant to announce our team the day before games ... that 24 hours (to the actual start) does seem a bit interesting!”

The skipper was jocularly referring to the upheaval the Proteas had immediately before the start of the second Test in Port Elizabeth, when it was suddenly learnt that Philander was potentially carrying a minor niggle.

“Everyone’s come through training really well this week and there’s a very good vibe. Hopefully we wake up and everyone’s in the same place as I left them overnight.”

When a team has won a Test match by 231 runs, it seems a tried-and-trusted principle not to tamper too much with a winning side, and Sport24 put that very issue to Smith.

He said: “Yes, I don’t see us tampering too much. We’ve obviously had a few injuries, guys back from illness that we need to consider, and also think about the surface, and the balance of the team.

“Those are things that come into discussion for this game.”

*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing

Sport24

Comments
  • Mark Raymond Broom - 2014-02-28 12:46

    No brainer if you compare overall stats, and stats for this season. Abbott all the way!

      Donovan Van Senus - 2014-02-28 12:49

      Couldnt agree with you more. Abbott has been the most consistant all season. This guy will put the aussies under pressure.

      David Meredith - 2014-02-28 19:00

      But the selectors think different and may choose otherwise

  • Hanno Van Helsdingen - 2014-02-28 12:50

    Elgar must open . Mclaren in de Kocks place and Abbott for Parnell. Then we have great bowling options and Mclaren can bat. Alviro unlucky.

      James-Dee Basson - 2014-02-28 13:17

      That leaves and extremely long tail, we need 7 batsman and McLaren cannot be seen as a batsman. Abbott in for Parnell and as much as I would have liked to see de Kock getting another chance, it does not look like its going to happen - so saying this the final XI will be: Smith, Peterson, Amla, du Plessis, de Villiers, Elgar, Duminy, Philander, Steyn, Abbott and Morkel.

  • Pascal van Woezik - 2014-02-28 12:57

    Elgar to open, De Kock as wicketkeeper/batsman and Abbott as 4th seamer. Duminy already fills the all-rounder roll at 7 and spin bowler! De Villiers should be considered as top-order batsman and captain in future.

      Hero-Gorha Madikizela - 2014-02-28 13:28

      I agree with you, but the reality is, with Andrew Hudson, that will not happen. Faf is the number 4 batsman & we must accept that, De Villiers is 5!

      Nick Collis - 2014-02-28 15:11

      Any other side at present is politics. Alviro has not been in form of late and Elgar is suited for the openers role. So De Kock stays at 6 . Yes you could argue about Smiths form but you don't drop the skipper on the eve of a crucial test.

      Michael Wingnut Campbell - 2014-02-28 16:18

      Smith's form? Averaging over 50 this season buddy. Only the last 2 matches havnt been good. Scored 68, 47, 44 and 27 not out in the recent series against India. So there is no question about his form.

  • Mauritz Van den Heever - 2014-02-28 13:13

    Agree, Abbott is the man. And he is going to give the Aus many concerns. We then Not only have the best fast bowling attack but we have two sets. Where is Suzy. Alviro P is hungry. The Australian team will not want Mr Elgar at the top.

  • Kevin John Leak - 2014-02-28 13:16

    Abbot is more agressive in his bowling and this is what we need against the Aus.

  • fransvisserdsb - 2014-02-28 13:17

    I think it is already pretty clear how things will pan out. Alviro is a good batsman (not great) with a proven track record. He will come back to open with Smith. I would have probably not done that, but the SA selectors are conservative. Therefore expect to see McClaren back, and Elgar dropping to the middle order. De Kock is unlucky - he has potential to be a match winner. Same with Abbot, who should be there in the place of McClaren. But I would rather have McClaren than Kleinveldt...

  • Kgosi Samuel Mogosetso - 2014-02-28 13:32

    We hv 7 batsman in the team we just need another bowler who can take wickets consistantly we dnt need an allrounder vern can do that and ryan's batting is not that great

  • Yonela S. Ndibongo - 2014-02-28 13:35

    De kock is a wonderful talent with a bright future, but the next test is for big boys only. He struggled in PE, and both his dismissals were embarrassing. I think we should consider him for our next Zim or West indies tour so that he can settle his nerves. So I'd pick Alviro, he's an established opener and we should trust him to deliver. I'd then choose Kyle abbot to replace Parnell because McClaren's batting has been poor lately, he's looked as good as Steyn with the bat so Kyle abbot has got to play. He'll help us pile on the pressure and get quick wickets.

  • Baainaar Hofman - 2014-02-28 13:42

    None of the above!!!

  • Colin Doyle - 2014-02-28 13:47

    It has to be Abbott, what future does McClaren have being 31. It's typical of SA selectors no vision and always conservative. Give him a chance to grow at this level as he showed his skill in his 1st test. De Kock showed too much immaturity in his first test but should be blooded in sooner than later, he should be given the chance to grow like Kallis was when he was that age... just not in this critical test, imagine if they had taken the conservative approach and dropped Kallis early in his career!

  • Sihle Zondie - 2014-02-28 14:13

    I thought de Kock blew it,he will/should get another chance though.I would love to see Miller have a crack at Test level,i think he's much calmer than de Kock plus he's in the form of his life

  • Neil Kruger - 2014-02-28 14:38

    Regardless of the weather conditions, I feel they need to pick Abbott. He's by far more aggressive in his bowling than Mclaren. Although his batting isn't as good as Mclaren's I feel we have enough fire power in our batting line up to pick Abbott above Mclaren. He's also young and can do with building up experience and who better than against the aussies?

  • Francois Marx - 2014-02-28 14:48

    Mclaren. Maklik.

  • Michael Wingnut Campbell - 2014-02-28 16:11

    We need to stop thinking about all rounders in test cricket! A person should be picked in a test team because he is the best player available so he must either be there for his bowling only or his batting only. Anything else is a bonus. Mclaren is obviously a bowler first so we need to just look at those abilities only. For that reason, I think abbot is a better choice because he is a better bowler at test level and he has just recently played at newlands where he did very well. Anyway if we need a batting lineup that goes to 9 then that doesn't say much about our top and middle order does it?

  • Hosni Mubar - 2014-02-28 16:14

    No offense, Rob, but your blind support of Pieter De Villiers means I don't read your articles. Anyone that blind cannot have much to offer in the analysis stakes.

  • Ralf Foley - 2014-02-28 16:14

    You right. We are the only team in the world who would be debating this. Are we dumb or what? Abbot took 9 wkts in his only test. We are at such a huge disadvantage to teams like Aus with our idiot selectors. How do we fire these guys?

      Bradley Glynn - 2014-02-28 17:04

      Could not agree more Ralf. So frustrating watching these pathetic political selections. How they can take a simple decision and eff it up is beyond me. One injury forced change needed to be made Abbott in for Parnell. Simple. What message does it send when Kleinveld is in the running with an inferior ave. Instead of pushing for political selections why are they not out there finding the next Ntini that will be in the side for years to come without question. Too busy trying to look as though they are doing their jobs. These selectors are idiots, no succession plan with an aging team, serious trouble down the rd when we actually have enough talent to stay at the top for as long as Aus did if not longer esp considering the talent in the U19 side. Now we have the top bowler in the domestic comp and it's even a question? Cmon, McClaren is not a test match player. In saying all this I think they may just go with Abbott - here's hoping so.

      Ralf Foley - 2014-02-28 17:51

      Players 12-15 in the SA squad are almost always quota selections to satisfy the politicians, with the knowledge that these guys will not play and therefore not weaken the team. The problem arises when a player in the playing XI gets injured. SA have brought Abbott into the squad because he is by far the better player. But they now face the tricky task of getting him into the team ahead of Kleinveldt. If Abbott plays it then becomes blatant that players 12-15 are simply quota players. My view is let's play as many quota players as possible in the ODI and T20 games, but for Tests let's pick on merit.

  • Larry Quins - 2014-02-28 16:51

    Mc laren is decent.... But that's about it he had never impressed fully!!! Abbott ... Merchant de langa .... Beuren hendricks .... Wayne parnell they are the future..... So let one of them in and learn from the best ?? Kleinvelt is ok more suited to one day never impressed either and unfit.... Abbotts stats speak volumes

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