South Africa have announced their Test squad for their series against Sri Lanka, starting in just over two weeks, on Boxing Day.
At first glance, the squad looks a bit thin on bowling with the unfortunate news that KG Rabada has not yet fully recovered from his injury that ruled him out of the ill-fated ODIs against England. Rabada is such an integral member of the team, he is the leader of the attack. No-one shows as much emotion and passion on the cricket field as Rabada does when SA play Tests. His absence will be sorely missed.
Beuran Hendricks has once again received a call-up to the national team and although he took a maiden five-wicket haul on his Test debut last season, against England, there was never anything spectacular about his bowling.
It is disappointing from my perspective that Pieter Malan and Zubayr Hamza were overlooked for this series, and although some may say Hamza has been given chances and hasn’t taken them, I think it is unfair to penalize him after only five Tests for not scoring as many runs as we would’ve liked when the others in the Proteas top order have failed to do the same. Hamza has shown he has good technique, and can bat with patience. Something the Proteas need.
Malan also deserved another chance in the Test team, he’s a solid opener, who I think could have partnered Elgar at the top, with Markram slotting in lower down the order.
There are some positive team selections however, with Keegen Petersen getting another call-up. After not getting a Test debut last season, I would very much like to see him included in the playing XI for the first Test on Boxing Day. He’s young but experienced and averages over 41 in first-class cricket.
Glenton Stuurman is an exciting bowler who has an excellent first-class record, with an average of just 21. With Vernon Philander now retired, South Africa need to look for another bowler who can move the ball and keep things tight. The quicker Stuurman gets into the team, the better – let’s see what he can do.
It’s excellent to see Kyle Verreynne has been rewarded with a call-up to the Test team, as he’s a dynamic and young keeper/batsman. The question then becomes who plays in the first Test, Verreynne or Temba Bavuma. I am an incredibly big fan of Bavuma, and think he is unjustifiably criticized at times, but I would be keen to see what Verreyenne could do in the Test team. For the first Test though, I think Bavuma gets the nod. He needs some big scores this season to cement his place. What better way to start than on Boxing Day.
Now that the new captain has been announced, at least for this season, we can finally start to look forward. Quinton de Kock may not have been my personal choice, given all the other responsibilities he has on his young shoulders, but I will give him my full support and hope he flourishes in this new role. The last thing I want is for de Kock to have too much on his plate that he goes down the same route AB did with the captaincy, keeping and premier batsman. The team have to help him. They cannot just leave everything to him like they did with AB.
This is then the team I have selected for the first Test against Sri Lanka.