South Africa have announced their Test squad for the first two Tests against England.
Faf du Plessis (c), Quinton de Kock (wk), Temba Bavuma, Vernon Philander, Kagiso Rabada, Anrich Nortje, Dean Elgar, Aiden Markram, Zubayr Hamza, Keshav Maharaj, Andile Phehlukwayo, Dane Paterson, Beuran Hendricks, Pieter Malan, Rassie vd Dussen, Rudi Second & Dwaine Pretorius
Straight off the bat, I have mixed feelings.
While I am happy about the inclusion of Pieter Malan, Rudi Second, and Rassie, I am slightly concerned with the back-up bowling options of Beuran Hendricks and Dane Paterson.
Admittedly, Beuran Hendricks did a fantastic job in the T20 series against India a few months ago, Test Cricket is however a completely different ball game. Does he have the consistency to bowl accurate lines and lengths for a prolonged spell?
I have the same concerns for Dane Paterson, who despite having great success in domestic cricket, has not been able to demonstrate the same ability on the international scene.
The playing XI I would play on Boxing Day would be:
Pieter Malan, Dean Elgar, Zubayr Hamza, Faf du Plessis, Rassie van der Dussen, Temba Bavuma, Quinton de Kock, Vernon Philander, Keshav Maharaj, Kagiso Rabada and Anrich Nortje.
While it would mean playing two debutants, in Malan and Rassie, I think it is worth the risk.
Malan has been a consistent performer on the domestic scene for a number of years and deserves his chance. Rassie meanwhile has proven he’s at home in international cricket and has the right mindset to not only survive but excel in this format.
Even if Markram is fit for the series, he has not played any cricket for 3 months and was not in the right mental space even before then. Until he has proven in domestic cricket he’s ready, I wouldn’t play him.
Temba Bavuma has received a lot of criticism for his inclusion but I am a firm believer that if he is allowed to bat lower down the order, where he has excelled in the past, that his performances will start to improve.
Same goes for Quinton de Kock.
I do not agree at all with trying to “bolster” the batting by shuffling players around. If they want to make the top order batting stronger, pick top order batsmen.
Whatever playing XI do take to the field next week, I wish them the best of luck. A new coach at the helm, a new Director of Cricket, both of which understand the challenges of Test Cricket, this should be a cracker of a series.
The first Test starts in Centurion on Boxing Day at 10am SA time.