Cape Town – While they will be delighted to re-infuse an array of big guns, the Proteas have a few selection conundrums for Friday’s first one-day international against West Indies at Kingsmead (13:30 start).
Perhaps the most pertinent issue to grapple with is this one: should Morne van Wyk, only two days on and at the very same venue, be allowed the chance to build further on his century-making success in the closing Twenty20 international?
Remember that the veteran Dolphins wicketkeeper/batsman is not in the World Cup squad, but in the 15-strong mix for the five valuable “tune-up” matches against the Windies as Quinton de Kock continues his gradual rehabilitation from injury.
So in some respects there is little to gain from fielding Van Wyk; this series should really be all about readying the CWC participants, and someone like next-in-line batsman Rilee Rossouw, who will be Australasian-bound, would greatly value more innings in the interim.
Only it is not so simple: captain and ace batsman AB de Villiers did more glove-work than would have been anticipated during the recent Test series, and his maximum fitness – occasional back issues do flare for him – is absolutely essential over the next couple of months.
So Van Wyk may earn a ticket to play at Kingsmead, on the attractive double grounds that he can take the job behind the stumps, and also try to cash in more – his confidence presumably sky-high -- on his fine knock on Wednesday as the Proteas importantly seek to get their ODI noses in front quickly.
Among other landmarks, it may not be known to some that his unbeaten 114 off 70 balls meant he faced the most deliveries of any batsman in the history of T20 internationals.
The previous record was 69 by New Zealand stalwart and fellow opener Martin Guptill, coincidentally against South Africa at East London in December 2012, when his 101 not out included a last-ball boundary to win a cliff-hanger.
If Van Wyk plays, it makes sense to keep him up front, simply slotting into the normal De Kock role as Hashim Amla’s opening partner.
The Proteas’ top six ought then to have a largely familiar look about it, with Faf du Plessis following at No 3 and then De Villiers, JP Duminy and David Miller (assuming he is over his reported back spasm) taking guard.
I would expect the hosts – unless there are niggles or the like -- to want to play all of Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel, Vernon Philander and Imran Tahir on Friday, leaving the customary quandary of who does the job around No 7 in the order, an all-rounder’s type of position.
Not without reason, some critics are lukewarm about the bits-and-pieces claims of both Wayne Parnell and Farhaan Behardien at present ... although the best way to get them into form for possible World Cup use is surely to expose them to duty in the lead-up phase?
But if both are overlooked for Friday, and the Proteas are prepared to go in a batsman light, then they could do worse than risk Philander occupying No 7 and giving Kyle Abbott a role in a five-strong specialist bowling attack with the recuperating JP Duminy as no more than the sixth element while he continues to feel his way back into cricket after a few weeks on the sidelines.
Abbott did what I suspected he might in the last T20 game: bounce back quite spiritedly from his record-breaking Wanderers pasting with a glowing economy rate of 4.66 from three overs at his home venue and also scene of the first ODI.
Possible SA team: Hashim Amla, Morne van Wyk, Faf du Plessis, AB de Villiers (capt), JP Duminy, David Miller, Vernon Philander, Kyle Abbott, Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel, Imran Tahir (or Behardien, engaged higher up the order, for Abbott).
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