England in SA

Faf encouraged by experience of Test 'rookies'

2020-01-02 17:25
Pieter Malan (Gallo)
Pieter Malan (Gallo)

Cape Town - When Pieter Malan takes to the field at Newlands on Friday, it means that the Proteas will have given Test debuts to three players over the age of 30 in this series. 

The Cape Cobras opener (30) will replace the injured Aiden Markram for the second Test against England having taken a road to international cricket that has seen him notch up 148 first-class caps. 

It is a huge opportunity for a man who could be forgiven for having thought that his shot at a Proteas cap had passed. 

At Centurion for the first Test, which the Proteas won by 107 runs, there were also debuts for allrounder Dwaine Pretorius and middle-order batsman Rassie van der Dussen, both 30.

Pretorius, thanks to a career-threatening injury early on in his playing career, was a late bloomer in domestic cricket and only has 56 first-class caps to his name while Van der Dussen has 114. 

Both debutants at SuperSport Park gave good accounts of themselves, with Van der Dussen scoring a crucial 51 in South Africa's second innings while Pretorius' control with the ball (1/23 in 8 and 1/26 in 16) was backed up by an important 33 with the bat in the Proteas' first dig. 

Both of those players do have international experience having represented their country at T20 and ODI level - they were part of the 2019 World Cup squad - but in Malan South Africa are set to back a player who has had to be particularly patient.

Players knocking the door down through consistent performances at domestic level is something that Du Plessis is pleased to see.

"It's a big positive for us that the guys who are coming through now are experienced cricketers," he said.

"Even Pieter making his debut is a guy that knows his game. Whether it is domestic experience or international experience, it is about making sure that you know your game.

"I was one of them as well ... the guys who took the dirty road and the long trek to get to the spot they wanted to be at."

When asked if the arrival of players like Van der Dussen and Malan was a sign that the South African domestic structures were serving their purpose, Du Plessis agreed.

"I think so. I think in terms of weight of runs, if you look at the last season or two, we're in a good place when it comes to a batting resources point of view," he said.

"Probably two years ago we were looking around at where the next batters were going to come from.

"Now, if you look at the system there is all of a sudden a lot of guys scoring a lot of runs, even if you look at someone like Keegan Petersen coming into the squad now.

"For me it's a really healthy place if you can get guys coming through the system when they absolutely know their game in and out. That's when you can trust the system.

"Sometimes when you're picking guys at 23 and 24, they are still learning about themselves.

"I prefer when you can knock on the door for a few seasons ... runs, runs, runs ... and the opportunity comes and you're so hungry and you've worked at it for so long that you don't want to let that position go.

"There will always be nerves, but when you speak to a player a little bit older there is an element of trusting his game. Now it's just about backing him and creating an environment where he feels like he belongs and is comfortable in the team."

On Malan, Du Plessis said the story was scripted perfectly. 

"He seems really calm and collected and, after speaking to Jacques Kallis, really confident in where his game is," said the skipper.

"It's the perfect story for him ... working hard all your life and then making your debut."

Play on Friday will start at 10:30. 

Read more on:    proteas  |  pieter malan  |  cape town  |  cricket


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Saturday, 01 February 2020
South Africa XI v England XI, Paarl 10:00
Tuesday, 04 February 2020
South Africa v England, , Cape Town 13:00
Friday, 07 February 2020
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