Cape Town – The intensely frustrating, enduring flirtation
of JP Duminy with the Test chop must end now.
It’s time, sadly, for “divorce” proceedings instead.
The undoubtedly gifted, occasionally so easy-on-the-eye
left-hander, at the age of almost 33, must be left to focus full-heartedly on
his still valuable role as a versatile character in the Proteas’ limited-overs
plans … even if he has been a little light on runs in one-day internationals of
At the very, very least, the always questionable experiment
with Duminy in the pivotal No 4 Test position has to be ditched immediately.
“Immediately”, of course, is not exactly that, because South
Africa are next in Test combat in July and August in England, but it is the
next assignment in the grandest format -- and a major one, for the bid over the
course of four Tests to pluck back the Basil D’Oliveira Trophy.
There are, worryingly, more widespread batting weaknesses in
the XI coming increasingly to light, although those are perhaps more
appropriately debated once the Test series in New Zealand has ended on
The Proteas, unless weather intervenes significantly in
their favour – and it might, according to forecasts – probably have only a 20 percent
chance from here of saving the third Test in Hamilton to ensure 1-0 series
Their top order looked glaringly brittle all over again as
they limped to stumps at 80 for five in their second innings (remember they’d
been 97 for four in the first before one of their tenacious fightbacks) – still
95 runs in arrears of their rejuvenated foes.
Captain Faf du Plessis has begun to show signs (15 not out
at strike rate 29) of one of his famous drop-anchor efforts, but after
attack-minded partner Quinton de Kock - still with him after managing to
largely curtail his natural instincts so far - there are only the bowlers left
As for Duminy, the most embattled of all the SA batsmen, his
contribution to the desperately-required rearguard action was limited to 13
runs, as he lamely offered no stroke to Jeetan Patel and had his off-stump
It meant he ended the series with 104 runs from six knocks
at a highly unflattering 20.80.
If he is to continue to hang by a thread in the Test team (given
the almost jocular suspicion in some circles that he has some sort of lifelong season-ticket),
it needs to be at least two rungs lower in the order … although a growing pool
of critics will contend with great merit that it is time for a new face in the
batting division, full-stop.
Broader statistics do awfully little, regrettably, to
justify his retention either at No 4 or in the side more generally.
Already under a cloud in terms of regularity (not!) of
delivery, Duminy was unexpectedly elevated to that lofty position – not with
any lead-up weight of runs to justify it – from slots mostly varying between
five and seven.
The switch began with the early-spring home series against
the very same Black Caps, and in the uninterrupted and already generous period
of 19 innings (one at No 5) since that controversial nod of confidence, the
left-hander has notched only 663 runs at 36.83.
This is conspicuously well less than Kallis-esque, albeit an
average that could be deemed borderline acceptable if he were a youngster
feeling his way into Test cricket at No 6, for example.
But Duminy is not that – he has become a pretty senior
personality in appearance terms, with 45 caps, yet simply not moved to
productive new levels despite a multitude of chances.
For the record, and not because it makes any stand-out-in-lights
statement, his average at No 4 is slightly higher than a dipping-again overall
figure in Tests of 33.64.
The irksome thing is that we all know what he is capable of,
even if all too sporadically – that 141 in Perth only a few months ago was a real
game-swayer, and there was also, more recently, a big 150-plus at home against
Yet there have been so many failures in between, and that
instability in his personal performance level has been part of an infection
that has grasped hold of one or two others around him.
But that is a story for another day, soon.
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