Cape Town – It seems increasingly clear that the Proteas
will hardly be weakened if Rory Kleinveldt finally gets to represent his
country at home venue Newlands against New Zealand in the first Test from next
The born-and-bred Capetonian will be next cab off the block
if fellow-Cobras seamer Vernon Philander fails to recover from injury in time
for the New Year encounter.
Philander aggravated an old left hamstring problem after
bowling just five overs in a pre-Christmas Sunfoil Series match for his
log-leading franchise against the Titans at the ground.
Considering that a recovery period of up to two weeks has
been recommended, he is racing against time to make the cut for the January 2 start
to the fixture against the Black Caps – No 1-ranked South Africa were due to
start their preparation with a Newlands training session on Friday afternoon.
Of course losing the services of one of the world’s Test
bowling finds of the last year or so would be a blow to Graeme Smith’s outfit,
but if Kleinveldt is drafted into the mix instead, the national side will be
fielding a player in encouragingly resurgent mode.
Plenty of people, after all, were ready – and not without
some justification – to brand the burly 29-year-old a “one-Test non-wonder”
after a traumatic debut against Australia at Brisbane a few weeks ago, where he
returned unflattering figures of nought for 97 in the Baggy Greens’ mammoth
lone innings and was more guilty than anyone in a no-ball virus that infected
pretty much the entire front-line attack.
But he then got a selection reprieve in Adelaide, because of
Philander’s absence for the second Test, and bowled vastly nearer his known
potential, including earning figures of three for 65 in the Aussies’ second
Indeed, so improved was Kleinveldt that there was a strong
case for fielding him in the series decider at Perth’s legendary, pacy WACA Ground,
although the tourists debatably chose to bolster their batting arsenal instead.
He has subsequently, at various South African venues, only
provided further reassurance of his mental strength by making his Gabba
misfortune slip further and further back in critics’ memory banks.
Kleinveldt has been largely disciplined and incisive for
both the Cobras (in the rain-marred, indecisive One-Day Cup final against the
Lions at the Wanderers) and then the Proteas in the three-match Twenty20 series
against the New Zealanders.
He bowled with commendable gusto in the victories at
Kingsmead and St George’s Park, and also showed the right kind of body language
at the death in East London when he only missed his length by a fraction and
century-maker Martin Guptill just managed to get the final ball over the
in-field for the decisive boundary to steal that fixture for the tourists.
There was certainly no evidence of any “meltdown” by
Kleinveldt on that occasion; sometimes you simply have to be philosophical in
T20 cricket when a particular batsman is smacking it really sweetly and tilting
Kleinveldt is thus likely to be in a good space ahead of the
first Test, and although he will not be wishing Philander any extension of his
injury hassles, must be champing at the bit for the possibility of a maiden
appearance for South Africa at Newlands.
He has played seven matches for the Proteas (two Tests, five
T20) but none of them at his picturesque home ground, where the surface is
expected to offer some spongy bounce and his ability to bang it in hard could
be influential if his services are employed.
It is fairly gratifying at present that candidates like
Kleinveldt and the younger Chris Morris (though currently short-term crocked)
are available to the Test side as seam-department back-ups, because Marchant de
Lange rather ominously stays sidelined after many months’ inactivity with a
stress fracture of the back.
our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing