Faf v JP for Centurion spot?

2016-01-21 14:01
Faf du Plessis (Gallo Images)

Cape Town - England captain Alastair Cook arrived in South Africa honest about the fact that he didn't yet know what his strongest side was. 

Now, three Tests and a series win later, he has no such problems. 

The team picks itself - and that has always been one of the marks of a successful Test cricketing nation.

Unfortunately for South Africa, selection uncertainty appears to be a factor in the build-up to every Test match these days, and that is the case once more ahead of the fourth Test in Pretoria despite there being just 13 players left to choose from.

With Rilee Rossouw released from the squad, JP Duminy and Faf du Plessis look set to battle it out for a place in the team for Centurion. 

Duminy was dropped ahead of the second Test at his home ground in Cape Town, and responded to his sacking by scoring a career-best 260* for the Cape Cobras in Sunfoil Series action - a knock that suggested that he was back in form in a big way. 

Du Plessis, meanwhile, appeared to have turned the corner in that Newlands Test where his defiant 86 in the first and only innings helped the Proteas recover and secure a draw. 

But scores of 16 and 14 in Johannesburg have put the spotlight firmly back on Du Plessis, and the selectors now have something to think about when choosing their side for Friday at his home ground. 

Highveld Lions opener Stephen Cook has come into the squad and, with Stiaan van Zyl dropped/injured, is certain to open the batting with Dean Elgar. 

Hashim Amla and AB de Villiers will follow, while Temba Bavuma is not going anywhere anytime soon. 

With Quinton de Kock having recovered from his bizarre knee injury, that leaves one spot in the middle order that Du Plessis and Duminy will both be eyeing. 

Du Plessis has long been one of the senior members of the squad - one third of the "leadership trio" alongside De Villiers and Amla. 

But leadership doesn't translate into runs, and it will be difficult to leave out Duminy again with his best-ever first class score still fresh in the memory. 

In addition, there is also a selection dilemma in the bowling department, and what is decided upon there might actually influence the Duminy/Du Plessis decision. 

With Hardus Viljoen having been released, a spot has opened up in the Proteas' attack. 

Presuming that Morne Morkel and Kagiso Rabada keep their places - although recent heavy workloads have been identified as possible issues for the pair - and Chris Morris is backed once more, then the selectors must choose between Kyle Abbott and Dane Piedt. 

The decision to leave out a specialist spinner at the Wanderers wasn't necessarily the reason for the seven wicket defeat, but it is difficult to see it being repeated at SuperSport Park. 

However, if that is the route that skipper De Villiers and the selectors do indeed opt for, then the door could open up for Duminy who, along with Dean Elgar, can plug the gap left by the absence of Piedt. 

On the surface, dropping Du Plessis appears the logical decision. 

But is De Villiers, in just his second Test as captain, ready to make such a big call?

Read more on:    proteas  |  jp duminy  |  faf du plessis  |  pretoria  |  cricket

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