South Africa’s 1st Test against Sri Lanka begins tomorrow and a lot of talk has been about the team line up for the Proteas.
Will they pick two spinners? Will they go with 3 fast bowlers? If they do, can they rely on the fitness of Steyn?
Dale Steyn has, in my opinion, proved his fitness. He bowled a bunch of overs in England for Hampshire, and had a lot of time in the middle playing at a competitive level. He himself has said that he is feeling good, and is setting his sights on playing 100 Tests for South Africa. With Steyn, I have no worry about his fitness.
KG has recovered from the lower back injury he sustained in April 2018 that took him out of contention for the most recent edition of the IPL. He too has said that he is ready, telling Sport24, “I am feeling quite good, so far so good”. The break away from Cricket, I think, would have done KG the world of good.
A recent stat by ESPN Cricinfo, demonstrated in worrying fashion the enormous number of overs KG has bowled since 2017. He has bowled over 100 overs more than any other of his fast-bowling counterparts. His injury in April was a sign that he needs taking care of, he is a precious commodity in South African Cricket. KG can lead the bowling attack for the next decade but he needs to be managed now.
As I’ve recently stated, Keshav Maharaj could very well be South Africa’s best spinner, and Proteas spin bowling coach, Claude Henderson has said “Maharaj brings a fantastic balance and offers control and a wicket-taking threat in equal measure”. Regarding South Africa’s two other spinners on tour, Tabraiz Shamsi and Shaun von Berg, Henderson has been quoted as saying that “Shamsi is a wicket taker and can change a game in one spell and von Berg is incredibly accurate as a leg spinner and also offers something with the bat. Any combination of the three will give Faf [du Plessis] a golden chance to win Test series in all conditions.”
This bodes well for the Proteas. They are a side whose fast bowling skills are among the best, if not, the best in the world, and now they offer genuine wicket taking abilities with spin. The likes of Maharaj, Shamsi and von Berg are giving the youngsters back home something to aspire to.
The weather in Galle for the 1st Test looks wet and the entire ground was covered by ground staff the day before the Test begins. This may influence team selection, and might deter Faf & Gibson from picking a 2nd spinner.
My team selection for the 1st Test would then be as follows:
Dean Elgar, Aiden Markram, Hashim Amla, Faf du Plessis, Temba Bavuma, Theunis de Bruyn, Quinton de Kock, Vernon Philander, KG Rabada, Dale Steyn & Keshav Maharaj
South Africa’s batting has been the weak link for a while, and Bavuma, de Bruyn and Quinton coming in at 5, 6 & 7 provides them with some stability. I have long said that Faf, as the captain of the side, needs to show the responsibility and lead from the front, he needs to occupy the vacant 4th position.
I am eagerly awaiting the toss and team selection on Day 1 of the 1st Test.