Cape Town - They
have curtailed their squad to 13 players, which helps, but it is also pretty
clear what South Africa’s XI is intended to be when they start the Test series
against Pakistan at Centurion on Boxing Day.
injury or other unforeseen hiccups in the interim period, the Proteas will go
in with a line-up the tourists can do plenty of diligent homework on, if they
wish, in the lead-up.
That’s not a
criticism, either: the national selectors have tended to be admirably
consistent when it comes to the Test side, even offering a liberal sense of
pardon in this instance for the wobble (OK, a bit more than that) in the winter
series in Sri Lanka.
Plessis and company were beaten 2-0 then, by the respective heavy margins of
199 and 278 runs and with the batting department especially feeble.
conditions there are also light years removed from those likely to be
experienced on our shores over the next few weeks - it’s a three-Test series - and
Linda Zondi’s panel clearly feel that a return to the strongholds of home should
see altogether better service displayed against the Pakistanis, who are yet to
win a series in South Africa after five prior cracks.
novice Cape Cobras batsman Zubayr Hamza, 23, and already five-cap paceman
Duanne Olivier also feature in the SA squad for the series named on Thursday, it
is difficult to envisage either playing at SuperSport Park.
Proteas’ XI is likely to differ in only one respect from the side which lost
the second Sri Lankan Test in Colombo, with Vernon Philander - left out of that
game after playing the first match - returning in place of the currently
injured Lungi Ngidi.
arsenal (or read: top seven) will be wholly unaltered, especially as relative
fringe customer at the time Theunis de Bruyn came to light superbly at No 3
with a fourth-innings maiden century in his sixth Test under trying
circumstances in the Colombo reverse.
doesn’t take a nuclear physicist to work out that the frontline batting will
be: Markram, Elgar, De Bruyn (who may also provide some disciplined medium-pace
fare if required), Amla, Du Plessis, Bavuma and De Kock.
Africa’s four-strong specialist attack, then, will be comprised of Dale Steyn,
Kagiso Rabada, Philander and Keshav Maharaj.
just one spinner in the 13-strong squad, Maharaj, the selectors have made it
abundantly clear that they expect pace to overwhelmingly do the trick for them
throughout the Pakistani series.
understandable, based on modern, usually winning home trends and desires by the
Proteas against visiting teams from Asia, although it may be worth adding a
note of caution on that topic.
Now that JP
Duminy no longer plays Test cricket, there is no significant second “tweaking”
option in the ranks and some, increasingly tiring South African pitches are
gripping and turning a bit more than is considered desirable.
hallmark certainly includes SuperSport Park, where former Proteas left-arm spin
stalwart Paul Harris had reason to jokingly remark in SABC television
commentary during an Mzansi Super League match earlier this week - where
Tshwane Spartans beat Paarl Rocks - that he was tempted to come out of
leg-spinner Shaun von Berg of the Spartans (3/27) and the Rocks’ unorthodox
Tabraiz Shamsi (3/18) revelled in helpful conditions to their trade.
mean that Maharaj is a busy man during the first Test, and he hasn’t bowled in
much multi-day cricket of late.
record, he has also gone wicketless in five MSL matches in a row although that
shouldn’t be causing too many sleepless nights for the rising connoisseur of
the Test landscape.
The squad inclusion
of youthful Hamza, even if he doesn’t actually get capped for a while yet, is
to be welcomed.
He has come
through the logical progression of promise at both SA ‘A’ and domestic
first-class level, and gently-blooded new faces are necessary at a time when
the likes of batting staple figures Hashim Amla (not far off 36) and Du Plessis
(34) can’t be far off making major decisions, as they say, about their careers ...
Proteas Test squad:
du Plessis (Titans, captain), Hashim Amla (Cape Cobras), Temba Bavuma
(Highveld Lions), Theunis de Bruyn (Titans), Quinton de Kock (Titans),
Dean Elgar (Titans), Zubayr Hamza (Cape Cobras), Keshav Maharaj
(Dolphins), Aiden Markram (Titans), Duanne Olivier (Knights), Vernon
Philander (Cape Cobras), Kagiso Rabada (Highveld Lions), Dale Steyn
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