SA field 'dream' top six

2009-12-15 14:07

Rob Houwing, Sport24 chief writer

Cape Town - The Proteas, finally, find themselves in a position to field the specialist batting order they are hoping will provide them with stability and success in the Test arena over the next couple of years at least.

Tuesday’s apparent green light for relative veteran Jacques Kallis to play as a batsman only in the first Test against England at SuperSport Park from Wednesday means they will almost certainly put out a top six comprising, in order, Graeme Smith (captain), Ashwell Prince, Hashim Amla, Kallis, AB de Villiers and JP Duminy.

It is well documented that Prince, playing only his second Test since the decision late last season to regard him as an opener henceforth, would ideally prefer a spot in the middle order.

But the national brains trust, by and large, see this formula as the best way to accommodate the sextet they believe represent the best batsmen available to South Africa at present. And squaring up to England at Centurion will be their first exposure as a collective.

You have to go back to the lead-up to the first Test against Australia at Perth in 2008/09 to see how the seeds for it were sown.

Then, of course, Prince - still earmarked for No 5 at the time -- cracked a thumb against a delivery from Makhaya Ntini only a day before hostilities in the historic series began, meaning an eleventh-hour debut for Duminy.

That, too, turned into a highly significant event because the diminutive left-hander went on to become one of the headline acts of the summer Down Under.

During that series and the early part of the return one in South Africa a few weeks later, Smith’s then-partner up front, Neil McKenzie, experienced a progressive decline in personal fortune and was dropped for the final Test at Newlands (the last the Proteas have played).

But Smith was absent this time because of injury sustained in the Durban Test and, with Prince effectively recalled in a new role as replacement for McKenzie, the Dolphins’ young Imraan Khan stood in temporarily for the leader.

The Centurion showdown, then, represents the first opportunity to see the currently most desired Proteas top six in action as a unit.

Most of their places appear pretty secure, with widespread consensus that Prince is too good a player not to make the transition successfully to opener - he got off to a rip-roaring start there by lashing 150 in a juggernaut, sole South African innings of 651 against the Aussies in Cape Town, where the tourists were thrashed by an innings after winning the first two Tests.

Smith, Amla, Kallis and De Villiers basically pick themselves, based on form and reputation over the past 18 months and more, leaving only Duminy with some question marks which he may well eliminate rapidly anyway.

There have been some concerns that the massively talented 25-year-old has been found out to some degree against the short ball dug into the ribcage, and he has only passed 50 once in his last seven Test innings after his superlative “arrival” at the WACA and then MCG.

A counter argument would be that he still averages 48.62 after six Tests - all against Australia - and no batsman is going to be the finished article so early in his five-day career.

There is nobody from the SuperSport Series truly bashing down the door to break up the national top-six alliance, although Alviro Petersen has been introduced to the broader Test squad of late, McKenzie is still a factor at first-class level (640 runs at 64.00 thus far in the season) and Dean Elgar and the only just 20-year-old Rilee Rossouw are candidates for the future.

But Centurion is a golden opportunity for South Africa’s incumbent batsmen to show their collective, highly-touted mettle, especially as the Proteas’ bowling resources are limited for this Test by Kallis’s likely non-involvement as a seam option.

Prince is a particularly comforting infusion after playing no part in South Africa’s disappointingly patchy one-day international showings this summer.

In a burgeoning Test career more generally - average 47.29 at present -- he has a really terrific record at SuperSport Park: 497 runs at a weighty 82.83 in six Tests, including three centuries.

*Rob Houwing will be attending the Centurion Test and provide comment and analysis for Sport24 readers after each day’s play.


  • Graham - 2009-12-15 14:21

    Those are 6 very very talented players - and they all deserve to be there - provided they're on form.

  • Andrew - 2009-12-15 14:36

    Beware the dream becoming a nightmare. Do the talking on the field. Since professional sportsman started tripping over their wallets in SA most of the talking is done off the field. Remember is about a sport that is played for enjoyment.

  • the man - 2009-12-15 14:48

    ag those 6 are cr@p man, no world class players at all just a bunch of helium filled cretins who think they can play cricket. South africa has to start fresh like australia did and hopefully in 3 years they might be competitive again. i see england winning this test series sorry to say. south africa need to be at their very best in every single match to win and gain my support untill then my view is that this south african team is overrated and full of themselves and can't win a match when it really counts.

  • bevis parsons - 2009-12-15 14:56

    I'm astonished at the concerns about JP Duminy test record of late, have the selectors forgotten what Jacques Kallis's early test record looked like??

  • spietz - 2009-12-15 14:57

    still short of a top class bowler!

  • sjc - 2009-12-15 15:01

    hope yet again they are not under-done.....i fear they are...can't be that difficult to organise a few warm-up matches ...maybe the players are just too lazy and don't think they need time in the middle !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • jako - 2009-12-15 15:03

    The Proteas are probably the most OVERATED cricket team in the world. Since their re-introduction into world cricket they have not progressed past a semi- final of any world cup. I have stopped watching cricket after the last 50 over world cup when Australia humiliated us in the semi final. They need to up their game in the next world cup to gain confidence of thousands of supporters again and then stadiums will see more supporters.

  • CP - 2009-12-15 15:08

    Batting line up is capable of getting runs on the board,but can the bowlers front and take 20 wickets

  • Sean - 2009-12-15 15:10

    No problems with the batters it is the attach you got to worry about. i am sure we can make do without exposing boucher. can we bowl England out twice? Harris? Ntini? Steyn out of form maybe a green wicket will be called for. Morkel is the pick of the bunch after spending time with his franchise coach and if kallis breaks down we in trouble JP can put in a few overs of spin we are a bowler short. I hope that we will get rid of mick arthur after this. he and GS has run out of excuses. time for some new ideas. The Mickey Arthur discards (KP, JT and Straus ) to do it for England.

  • Iain - 2009-12-15 15:12

    I am very worried why Mickey cannot see the light with the Boucher issue.Mark boucher must be dropped and AB take the gloves to make way frm a form batter of Alviro Petersen or a allrounder.Why does he persist with a mediocre wicketkeeper/batsmen.Only Mickey will know

  • sports fan - 2009-12-15 15:15

    Most overated ,bad attitude, team in the world .See a big hiding on the way.

  • nick - 2009-12-15 15:15

    @ Jako: How can you believe such drivel. You think that the progress these guys have made over the last two years is because the are just average? Fool.

  • Warren - 2009-12-15 15:16

    SA's top six batsmen should include KP, Straus and Trott.....

  • WTF?!? @jako & @the man - 2009-12-15 15:17

    Guys, why don't you just shut up and stop all your negativity. This article is mentioning the obivious that these are the best batsmen that we have available at the moment. Why can't you just keep quiet and support the team like the rest of us?

  • jj - 2009-12-15 15:21

    the proteas will lose.........Mickey must go, most boring coach i have ever seen. Welcome back Prince!!!!!!!!

  • WTF?!? @jako & @the man - 2009-12-15 15:21

    Guys, why don't you just shut up and stop all your negativity. This article is mentioning the obivious that these are the best batsmen that we have available at the moment. Why can't you just keep quiet and support the team like the rest of us?

  • @the man - 2009-12-15 15:29

    You must be joking....."no world class players"...sory bru are you sure you know what game we are talking about? Maybe you are high on someting...

  • sjc - 2009-12-15 15:43

    I agree with the folk saying we must not be negative.....and we have done very well over the last two years in test cricket.....BUT , we always tend to start slowly and under-cooked . Surely by now the team have realised that with no practice out in the middle you will be lacking the edge ? And don't give me that kak that they need a break .We all heard that before but when the IPL started up they we're all up for that ????????/

  • Jack - 2009-12-15 15:45

    Warren/Sean: Why should the SA batting line-up include Strauss who at the age of 6 emigrated with his family to Australia, lived there for one year before moving again to England?

  • Gerald - 2009-12-15 16:00

    What do ODI semi-finals have to do with Test cricket? Kallis breaking down? He is bowling, num-nuts. Dear sweet lord most of you people are so dumb and ignorant I am surprised you know how to use a keyboard.

  • Sean - 2009-12-15 16:29

    @Jack no mate don't get me wrong it's nice to have good guys to play against it make things interesting otherwise England will be a walk in the park. I am concerned about the coach maybe we can export the mickey to England and our captain he can defiantly snatch defeat out of the jaws of victory like the PE spectacle he had one line to many, so he elected to bat on a cloudy day in PE the rest is history, to add insult to injury he blamed the new boys what a w@nker his not a leader Hansie would have accepted responsibility if he made the mistake. We should kick England butt. MA persists with boucher, and we are a bowler light. English has pulled a mickey on us.

  • TD - 2009-12-15 16:30

    Good top batsmen, only depends if Smith bats well and gets a big start then the rest of the team follows or now we have kallis back the rock to bring back the stabilitity. Good Luck Guys!!!

  • DoogieB - 2009-12-15 16:39

    2 good teams, each dying to beat the cr@p out of the other, I for one can't wait and already have my tickets for all 5 days in Dbn and Ctn. Hopefully the negative m*r*ns will stay away so as not to spoil the fun. Up the Proteas.

  • BeeGee - 2009-12-15 16:42

    @Jako - do us all a favour and stop watching cricket altogether - we really don't need people like you and the man in SA. Did you miss the SA test series in AUS - I suppose you think that was just a lucky break? If you can't be constructive about your comments then please don't watch any sport. Take up knitting or something and whine to yourself.

  • Cereal_Killa - 2009-12-15 19:31

    WOW, there are some real idiots who seem to be suffering from short term memory loss!! You were most probably on here when we beat Aussie in Oz, saying we are the best and you are so after a couple of forgetful ODI's which mean nothing to true cricket enthusiast....we apparently are overrated..... WTF!! Smith is 1 of the top 3 openers in the world!! Kallis IS SA's greatest ever cricketer!!!! And ppl stop saying AB must take over the wicketkeeping duties....he doesnt want to it will negativly effect his batting, he is our future best batsmen after Kallis. I do agree however that we should maybe give M Van Wyk or H Kuhn a run in the team, bu8t keep Bopucher in the ODI side. @ the moment Us and Oz are the 2 best teams in the world ( India cant win away from home against top opposition) So ppl please get over you pathetic negativity and support your bloody country!!! They will NEVER be as bad as Banana Banana!! FACT!! Just my 2c worth.....use it, dont use it

  • Thabo - 2009-12-15 20:20

    Why all the negativity? Our team has performed very well over the last year. Why all these negative sentiments?

  • claude - 2009-12-16 08:08

    The promblem in SA is not the players. It is the selectors. The people who selected the coach & captain

  • James@jako - 2009-12-16 09:49

    Fill more stadiums? Jaco you are a plonker, there are never empty stadiums, truth is you just dont watch the game or you would have noticed the stadiums are always full. This team and the ones before (Kepler's day) may not have brought home the CWC but have been on the top of their game since reintroduction. Not unlike the NZ AB's, only one world cup in 20 yrs. but still the team to beat. Go find a tree to bark at.

  • Raj - 2009-12-17 08:47 must it strange that the players are all wearing white....and can bowl so wide...must be a new form of limited overs cricket???:-) SA put themselves under too much preasure...look at the recent performances of Aus, England when we played them...are we so much worse than them...I certainly don't think so...but we do forget the good performances quickly don't we....ranked no 1 in both forms of the game a few months ago...oh well the fickle fools will always remain...

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