South Africa’s Test series against England starts in less than a month’s time. All eyes will be glued to see what players are selected for that squad.
Here is who I would like to see picked for the first Test, starting on Boxing Day.
Aiden Markram suffered a self-inflicted injury in October, during the second Test against India and is in a race against time to be fit for the opening Test against England.
Even if Markram is fit, he will not have played any cricket since October, and was not in any sort of form prior to his injury. England will not be an easy bowling unit to face and Markram’s dismissals to the Indian seam bowlers sparks greater concern for his state of mind and confidence.
I would rather pick someone that has been playing cricket, is in form, and who is a genuine opener – Janneman Malan.
Janneman’s record in four-day cricket speaks for itself, with an average of over 50, spanning four years, he’s young and energetic, and has a terrific future ahead of him. I’d like to see him show England what talent South Africa have.
For Markram, allow him time to play four-day cricket when he’s fit, give him the opportunity to get runs under his belt and then see if he can return to the Test side. But at the moment, I am not confident of his ability to face a steaming in Jofra Archer with a new ball on Boxing Day.
Zubayr Hamza impressed in the final Test against India with his maiden Test half-century. There is no way Hamza cannot be in the opening Test against England. He showed the skill and class in the final Test against India and showed why he is the number 3 batsman. He was always touted as being Hashim Amla’s replacement, and now that Amla has retired, Hamza needs to be in the side.
Captain Faf du Plessis made the decision to bat at number 4 in the final Test against India, which is something a lot of us had asked for. This is the right move and I would hope he does continue in this position for the foreseeable future.
Rassie van der Dussen absolutely needs to be in the Test squad. He has demonstrated his ability to adapt to situations, acclimatize and has taken to international cricket like a duck to water. Adding a player like Rassie to the middle order, together with Faf and Bavuma, adds much needed strength and stability to the team.
This also then means Quinton de Kock can bat at seven, which is where he is the most successful and therefore most useful.
Vernon Philander, Kagiso Rabada and Keshav Maharaj select themselves, and with a bowling line up consisting of three seamers and a spinner, this means only one of Anrich Norje or Lungi Ngidi can play.
Nortje was given his debut in India, and despite a tough tour, it would be nice to see him play on home surfaces with his pace and accuracy coming to the fore.
While I am a big fan of Ngidi, my worry comes in with his ability to bowl long and accurate spells, given his fitness issues. I would like to see him play a couple of four-day games to get into the practice of bowling longer spells and gaining game time before coming into an important Test series.
This is my desired playing XI for the first Test.
Janneman Malan, Dean Elgar, Zubayr Hamza, Faf du Plessis, Rassie van der Dussen, Temba Bavuma, Quinton de Kock, Vernon Philander, KG Rabada, Keshav Maharaj & Anrich Nortje