Life After Faf

Given that now Faf du Plessis has announced his retirement from Test Cricket, South Africa will need to think about who will replace this legend and take up the number 4 slot in the Test team.

Let’s take a look at the top 5 contenders who I feel could stake a claim for this spot:

Zubayr Hamza

Having already played 5 Tests, Hamza has had a taste of the big stage. Some will argue that after 10 innings, and an average of 18 with one half-century, Hamza hasn’t taken his chance. I, on the other hand argue that after just 10 innings, he hasn’t had a fair chance to showcase what he can do. Being one of only a handful of batsmen on that ill-fated India tour in 2019 to score a half-century, Hamza showed patience, technique and skill to bat in tough conditions. He should be given another chance in the Test team, and this could be the perfect opportunity to do so.

Keegan Petersen

Consistently scoring runs for the Dolphins for multiple seasons, and averaging 58 in the 2020/21 four-day competition, Keegan Peterson can no longer be ignored. Despite receiving his maiden call-up to the Test team, he is still waiting for his chance but now that a position has become available, this could be his chance to shine. With a wealth of experience of domestic cricket under his belt, he will appreciate the enormity of the situation and hopefully for him, if offered, will take his chance with both hands.

Raynard van Tonder

A young and exciting player, Raynard van Tonder is the leading run-scorer in the domestic four-day competition this season with 604 runs at 67. Typically known to bat at 3, van Tonder is a solid performer as evidenced by his incredibly impressive first-class average of 50 after 33 matches. He could adopt the number 3 slot in the Proteas Test team, which would allow Rassie van der Dussen to drop one spot down the order.

Sarel Erwee

An opener by trade, it could well be worth introducing Saral Erwee into the Test team as a number 3 or 4 batsman. This would allow him to settle into the side without having to face the enormous task of opening in Test Cricket, which thankfully for South Africa has been settled for some time now. Despite being placed fifth in the leading run-scores with 422 runs, his average of 60 is very impressive, with two half-centuries and one century to speak of in the 5 games this season. Not a bad return at all for the experienced campaigner.

Rudi Second

Having scored 504 runs at 56 in the current season of the domestic four-day competition, and having a career first-class average of 45, Rudi Second has long been thought of as a worthy Test Cricketer, Is this now his time? A genuine number 4 batsman, and not unaccustomed to having to rescue an innings, he will fit in well with the Proteas.

Thankfully for the Proteas, there is no Test cricket on the horizon in the near future, so panic selections can be avoided. I can only hope though, that once a replacement is made, this player is given ample opportunity to prove himself.


SA in Pakistan – SA’s T20I performance

If you didn’t watch any of the games in the Pakistan vs. South Africa T20I series, but saw the series result, you might think 2-1 win to Pakistan was inevitable. Pakistan playing at home, against a very inexperienced South African line up. But despite the outcome, the games were actually closely matched.

The biggest positive South Africa can take from the series was the performance of Tabraiz Shamsi, who was the joint leading wicket-taker in the series, with 6 wickets, along with fellow countryman Dwaine Pretorius. For a spinner, bowling in those crucial middle overs, when batsman are looking to accelerate, to have an economy rate of under 6, and average of 10.16 is phenomenal. He has improved in consistency and accuracy, and  shown he will be a great threat in the T20 World Cup later this year.

Dwaine Pretorius also enjoyed a promising series, averaging 10.5 at an economy rate of 7. Pretorius is such an important player for South Africa. He’s not quick, but that is not a prerequisite to be successful in international cricket. He bowls consistently, a good line and length, and he nails those yorkers exceptionally well, especially at the death.

While it was good to see David Miller with a significant contribution in the final game, scoring 85*, how long are we going to have to wait for another performance like that? For all his experience, performing well in one out of three games is not the consistency required. Out of all the games Miller plays, odds are that eventually it’ll be his day, but is it worth it keeping a young player out, hoping for another elusive “Miller Time” innings? He is not a player South Africa can rely on to always put in a solid performance. The time has come to move on from Miller and put their time and effort into a young and exciting player and give them a chance.

The performance of Andile Phehlukwayo was disappointing. Seen as a very important middle order player and all-rounder, Phehlukwayo scored just 14 runs in the series, and took 3 wickets at 33 with an economy rate of over 10. For a player known for his consistency and death bowling prowess, this is surely a series he’d like to forget.

It was really encouraging to see Glenton Stuurman make his T20I debut, but it was disappointing that he was dropped after just one game, and not given another opportunity. It should be remembered it was his first international match, and away from home, nerves would be expected. International cricket has a steep learning curve and T20 internationals aren’t easy to make your debut as they are so fast paced and batsmen are looking for any opportunity to score and they would likely target the debutant, so he needs to be given more time. Hopefully he will be given another chance to play because that’s the only way he’ll learn and improve.

While South Africa did well to give Stuurman his debut, it was disheartening that others were not. Given that the T20 World Cup is just six months away, and in India, this was the perfect opportunity to give other, new players a chance, namely Ryan Rickelton. It is frustrating that they take these young players on tour, away from their franchises, to just sit on the bench or carry drinks. And yes, they say that being in the team environment is a benefit, but there’s only so much you can learn without being on the field. The quicker he gets into the playing XI, along with Kyle Verreynne, the quicker South Africa will be able to start building for the future.

For being such an inexperienced side, the players will have gained valuable experience from this series and can take the positives into the next series.

South Africa have a chance to settle the score when the teams meet again in a couple months’ time, this time in South Africa. That is sure to be a very exciting series, and will be interesting to see how Pakistan fare on the bouncy South African pitches.


IND vs. ENG – 2nd Test Preview

Not many would have given England a hope of winning the first Test, with so many factors against them: Virat Kohli back, Jasprit Bumrah recovered from injury and maybe most significant of all, India at home. England however put in a near perfect game, from Day 1 to win the opening Test of the series by 227 runs and lead the 4-match series 1-0.

It was only the second time since 2013 that India had lost a home Test, which highlights just how dominant they are at home. Virat Kohli has also now lost his last four Test matches as captain.

Joe Root on the other hand could not have asked for a better 100th Test, scoring yet another double century and leading his team to their 6th consecutive away Test win in the subcontinent.

What was encouraging for England was the all-round performances from the team. Dom Bess with 4 wickets in the first innings, Jack Leach with 4 in the second, and best of all, was James Anderson, who executed a remarkable spell of reverse swing on Day 5, that ripped out any chance of an Indian fightback with his 3-17.

England have made a number of changes to their squad for the second Test, with Ben Foakes, Moeen Ali, Stuart Broad, Ollie Stone & Chris Woakes coming in for Anderson, Buttler, Bess & Archer, who suffered pain in his elbow and is being rested as a precaution after taking painkilling injections.

For India, Axar Patel, who missed the first Test due to a left knee injury has been declared fit and is all set to make his Test debut. As a result, Shahbaz Nadeem, who struggled for accuracy and consistency has been dropped from the squad.

Shubman Gill, playing his first Test at home showed he belongs at this level with a fine looking fifty in India’s second innings. Even though Rohit Sharma had a Test to forget with scores of 6 & 12, India are likely to stick with this opening partnership.

Interestingly, the second Test will be allowing fans in the ground, how much of a factor could this have on the game? Up to 15,000 fans are allowed in every day. That means about 15,000 passionate Indian fans cheering their team on. We know how effective home support is, this could be just what Virat Kohli needs to get back to winning ways.

Equaling Michael Vaughan’s record of 26 England wins, will Joe Root become the most successful England captain by winning the second Test, thus ensuring they cannot lose the series?

The first two Tests are played at the same ground in Chennai, and reports suggest the pitch for the second Test will offer more spin as early as the first day, and the dry conditions could result in low bounce. Batting is certain to be a challenge in this Test.

This is sure to be a riveting Test match, watch all the action as the Test starts on Saturday 13th February at 6am

 


 

IND vs. ENG – 1st Test Preview

England are fresh off a convincing win in Sri Lanka, but a new challenge awaits. A four-Test away series against India.

India meanwhile have returned home after completing a marvellous and quite honestly, miraculous series victory away from home against Australia, with essentially a second-string playing XI.

The trouble India find themselves in now is, who makes their playing XI for the first Test against England? Mohammed Siraj bowled his heart out and led a very inexperienced bowling attack in Australia with great pride and discipline. He surely must keep his place.

Regular captain, Virat Kohl is back after taking paternity leave for the birth of his first child, and this of course bolsters their batting, but questions have arisen on who should take the captaincy. Ajinkya Rahane proved just what a worthy captain he is, and how he led the players incredibly well. It’s great to lead a team that’s performing well and winning. But the true test of a captain is how they lead a team that’s down and out. That’s where Rahane thrived.

Neither team is the same as when they last met, five years ago, a series India comprehensively won 4-0. India no longer rely on just spin at home, they have found an excellent crop of young fast bowlers in Jasprit Bumrah, Navdeep Saini & Siraj himself. They also have found some exciting and talented young batsmen in Shubman Gill and Rishabh Pant, who showed tremendous character, confidence and skill in Australia.

England on the other hand have Ben Stokes, who over the past five years has developed his game to become a mature and responsible player and one of the best all-rounders the game has at the moment. Ben Stokes can singlehandedly change the course of a match, with either the ball or bat in his hand. Jofra Archer and Mark Wood being express pace to the table, something England have been missing for a while.

England captain Joe Root is set to play his 100th Test, and is currently in the midst of possibly the best from of his career, scoring 426 runs at 106.5 in the recent series against Sri Lanka. Root’s experience of playing in India is priceless and his record in India is impressive, averaging 53 in the six Tests he has played there. His ability to play spin and bat long periods of time lays the foundation England build their innings around.

The MA Chidambaram Stadium is a fortress for India, having not lost a Test at this ground for the past 22 years. The last time they did lose was to arch-rivals, Pakistan in 1999. England, who have won 3 of their last six away series would do well to storm the fortress. Only time will tell if they can.

The first Test starts on Friday 5th February at 6am, with the toss at 5:30am.

 


 

PAK vs. SA – 2nd Test Preview

After succumbing to their 8th consecutive Test loss in the subcontinent, South Africa find themselves 1-0 down in the two-match series against Pakistan.

A valiant bowling effort from the Proteas, and gutsy batting from Aiden Markram and Rassie van der Dussen aside, the Proteas batting fell into the same patterns we’ve come to know and dislike – batting collapses. Losing 7-87 in the first innings and 9-70 in the second is simply not good enough to win Test matches, and the quicker they come to this realisation, the better.

Captain Quinton de Kock, doesn’t know how to stop batting collapses from occurring, saying,

“if we knew how to fix them, we wouldn’t be doing it in the first place”

The answer is simple – have accountability and don’t throw your wickets away.

Dean Elgar admitted to exactly that after the Proteas first innings saying,

“there were a few very soft dismissals….if you apply yourself, there are no real demons in the wicket”

It is frustrating to listen to the same words being repeated after every Test, or series. Words are cheap. When are they going to practice what they preach?

Pakistan were the better team in the first Test, and fully deserved their win. But they find themselves with the problem South Africa themselves had for a number of years prior to Markram – solid openers. With a highest score of 26 in his last 6 Test innings, far below his Test average of 39, Abid Ali needs to start performing.

Pakistan could opt to change their opening partnership and bring in Kamran Ghulam for the second Test, who has been in great touch in domestic cricket. But after giving Imran Butt an opportunity, they would be best suited to give him a proper run in the team. Pakistan are therefore unlikely to change a winning team.

Enough words cannot be said to congratulate and admire the batting and attitude of Fawad Alam, who after a decade away from the team, has come back and harbors no resentment but instead is happy to just score runs for his country. Pakistan will be hopeful of more runs from him in the second Test.

One positive South Africa could look to capitalize on is the fact that Keshav Maharaj dismissed Babar Azam twice in the first Test – could Babar be Maharaj’s bunny, or was Babar just rusty after a lengthy injury break? There’s an important psychological component to Test cricket, and Babar will be well aware Maharaj has dismissed him twice already. it might be worth Maharaj being brought into the attack as soon as Babar comes to the crease in the second Test, and see what happens.

The one Test played at Rawalpindi in recent times was against Bangladesh in 2020, which saw Pakistan’s pace attack thrive. Pundits have also agreed that pace is more of a factor, thereby suggesting one spinner may be sufficient. To this end, South Africa could drop George Linde, who only bowled 16 overs in the first Test, compared to Maharaj’s 33, on a pitch that was offering spin, for Wiaan Mulder, and keep their 3-pronged pace attack of Rabada, Ngidi and Nortje. If they require another spin option, they could utilise Markram or Dean Elgar in this role, who even after the blow to his hand, is confident he’ll be fit for the second Test.

After seeing South Africa struggle against spin however, Pakistan will be hopeful the pitch does offer enough spin for their bowlers to capitalize on.

With the series on the line, this proves to be a must-watch game. The second Test starts on February 4th at 7am – live on SuperSport.


PAK vs. SA – 1st Test Preview

The Proteas are in Pakistan for the first time since 2007, for a highly anticipated Test series, which starts in 2 days. Given how South Africa have fared in Test cricket in the subcontinent, this is an important series for the visitors.

Since the last time the Proteas toured Pakistan was 13 years ago, not one of the current Proteas players have experience of Test cricket in Pakistan. Faf du Plessis however has experience of T20 cricket in the country, for both the World XI and in the Pakistan Super League. As the most experienced Test player for the Proteas, with 67 Tests, it will be up to him to provide assistance to the others.

This is an important series for du Plessis, who has not scored a century in the subcontinent, and knowing this, he understands it is important for him to do well overseas.

Given the poor form of many Pakistan players in New Zealand, Pakistan had no choice but to make some significant changes to their squad, and named 9 uncapped players in their place. Kamran Ghulam has been rewarded for his consistent performances in domestic cricket. As the leading run-scorer in the Quaid-e-Azam trophy with 1249 runs, Pakistan will be hopeful he can carry this form over into the Test arena.

A big boost for Pakistan is the return of Babar Azam, who they missed terribly in New Zealand. Babar was in spectacular form in 2020, averaging 68 in Test cricket. His experience, leadership and confidence are priceless for Pakistan.

Both teams will favour bowling over batting in this series, with Pakistan having the ever-impressive Shaheen Shah Afridi in their ranks. Of his 13 Tests, Afridi has only played 3 Tests at home in Pakistan, as reflected by his slightly higher than expected bowling average of 33. A hugely talented and intelligent bowler, he will be looking forward to another chance to play at home.

KG Rabada, who is back in the squad after injury, last played any form of international cricket in November 2020, and has not played Test cricket since January 2020. South Africa will be hoping this long lay-off does not affect his performance. With two world class bowlers up against each other, the battle between him and Afridi will be exhilarating to watch unfold.

After shuffling their batting order around against Sri Lanka last month, South Africa will be better suited to readjust batting positions. If all selected, Rassie van der Dussen, Temba Bavuma and Quinton de Kock should occupy the 5, 6, & 7 slots.

Quinton de Kock demonstrated that batting at 5 is perhaps not the most optimal batting position for him, and with an average of 49.87 batting at 7, it does both him and the team well to keep him in this position.

Keegan Petersen has been waiting in the wings for an opportunity, he deserves his chance, and needing a genuine number 3, this should be his chance.

The National Stadium, Karachi has hosted two Tests since 2019, where a lot of runs have been scored and lot of wickets by fast bowlers have been taken. South Africa could opt for two genuine spinners in Keshav Maharaj and George Linde, or boost their batting with the solitary spinner in Maharaj and hope Dean Elgar and Keegan Petersen, if selected, can roll their arms over.

With some world class players on show, and with sunny and pleasant weather forecast, we should be in for a cracker of a Test match.

The first Test starts on Tuesday 26th January, at 7am SA time.

 


 

AUS vs. IND – 4th Test Preview

It was the great escape.

India fought – battered, bruised and broken, to claw their way to an improbable but fantastic draw in Sydney.

With the series tied at 1-1, it’s all to play for in the final Test at the Gabba.

India have been plagued by injuries, lost their captain, and have had to field a different playing XI in every Test so far, but to their credit, they have shown tremendous resilience.

Rishabh Pant has been a revelation for India, having scoring 162 runs @ 54, with a highest of 97. His dynamic style of play and aggressive nature visibly threw Australia off their game.

A big blow to India will be fact that three key players who played in the third Test draw have been officially ruled out of the final Test: Ravindra Jadeja (broken thumb), Hanuma Vihari (hamstring tear) and Jasprit Bumrah (abdominal strain).

The injury to Jasprit Bumrah is of particular concern as India’s bowling stocks have been severely depleted, with Mohammed Shami, Ishant Sharna and Umesh Yadav already having been withdrawn. India will now be left with a gravely inexperienced seam bowling attack for the final Test, with Mohammed Siraj, Navdeep Saini, T. Natarajan and Shardul Thakur, who are all likely to play, having played a combined 4 Tests between them.

Steve Smith, who prior to the Sydney Test had scored just 10 runs in 4 innings, blasted his way back to his best, with a total of 212 runs in the third Test, scoring 131 & 81.

Knowing he wasn’t at full fitness, It was a risk playing David Warner in the third Test, and it didn’t pay off with Warner returning scores of 5 & 13, and showing signs of pain and discomfort. With the series on the line however, Australia may be forced to play him again in Brisbane.

Will Pucovski, who enjoyed scoring his maiden Test half-century on debut in the previous Test also faces questions around his availability as he awaits scan results on his shoulder, which he injured during play on Day 5 of the Sydney Test.

A series as closely contested as this is sure to bring out high tensions and high stress, and Australian captain Tim Paine’s conduct left a lot to be desired, launching a disrespectful sledging tirade on India’s Ravichandran Ashwin, as India fought for their draw. Paine had a disappointing Test overall, dropping 3 catches on the final day alone, and being fined 15% of his match fee for showing dissent and swearing at the umpire.

A fortress for Australia, the Gabba is a ground where Australia have not lost a Test since November 1988. With Steve Smith finding form and Australia’s bowling attack wounded after failing to bowl India out in Sydney, India are in for a real battle if they want to win the series.

A series marred with off-field issues and on-field hostilities & unpleasantness, let us hope the final Test provides us with a fitting end to a simply superb and hard-fought series.

The Test starts at 2am on Friday 15th January.


SA vs. SL – 2nd Test Preview

South Africa finished off 2020 on a good note, ending their Test win drought after beating Sri Lanka comfortably by an innings and 45 runs in the Boxing Day Test.

It had been a long wait to see a Proteas batsman score a century (the last was 7 Tests ago in October 2019), but Faf du Plessis duly obliged with his highest Test score, falling agonizingly short of his maiden Test double by just one run. What was encouraging though was the fact that South Africa put on over 300 runs for the first time in 7 Tests.

A strong opening partnership of over 100 runs, something the Proteas had not done since October 2017 was welcome relief. Aiden Markram looks a different player, assured in his game and more comfortable at the crease.

Sri Lanka were hampered by multiple injuries, which severely depleted their bowling attack, so caution must be taken when referring to South Africa’s batting. The hugely talented and experienced Suranga Lakmal should be fully fit for the second Test, and will provide stability to their bowling attack.

Debutant Wanindu Hasaranga was one of the only positives for Sri Lanka in the first Test, taking 4 wickets in the first innings, and scoring a valiant maiden Test fifty in the second.

The concern for Sri Lanka ahead of this tour was the threat of Covid, which is why they picked a 21-man strong Test squad. Thankfully for them, they now have replacements to cover their injured players, which they will be forced to use with at least one player (Dhananjaya de Silva) ruled out for the second Test.

After initially being ruled out of the Test series, Kagiso Rabada is now declared fit and has joined the squad. However, coach Mark Boucher has suggested that because of the lack of red-ball cricket this year, and managing player workload, Rabada may not be an automatic starter for the second Test. If Rabada does play however, he could get his 200th Test wickets at his home ground.

While it was a surprise to many to see Wiaan Mulder included in the first Test, he certainly proved his worth, by taking wickets in both innings and scoring useful lower order runs. He was accurate and smart.

Lutho Sipamla had a less than happy start to his Test career when he showed a lack of control in his opening spell. Perhaps asking him to bowl with the new ball was an unwise decision. The way Sipamla bowled in his later spells however was incredible. It is definitely worth giving him another Test and giving him a decent run in the team.

The “Bullring” as it is affectionately known for its intimidating nature has seen a mixed bag for the home side in recent Tests, with South Africa winning 3 of the last 5 Tests, losing to both India (2018) and England (2019).

Even if conditions call for an all-out pace attack, Mark Boucher is hesitant to leave out a spinner, therefore Keshav Maharaj is likely to play. Given this, South Africa are likely to go in with the same playing XI.

Can South Africa continue their winning momentum into the New Year and win their first Test series in two years? Only time will tell.

Happy New Year everyone!


SA Test squad announced – My thoughts

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.

 


 

SA vs. ENG: 1st ODI – My Playing XI

South Africa’s summer of international cricket is in full swing now as they start their ODI series against World Champions, England tomorrow afternoon at Newlands.

The T20I series was a big disappointment but with a change in personnel for the ODIs and with those new faces coming in having been playing games in the local four-day series competition, a renewed energy can hopefully also be brought into the team.

The team I would like to see play on Friday afternoon is as follows. I have given this some thought and given the players available in the squad, this is who I feel should play.

Janneman Malan had a good season earlier this year against Australia, scoring his maiden ODI century, and he would want to build on this. He bats well with Quinton de Kock and is not afraid to be aggressive and show intent. Something South Africa need at the top of their innings, as it can’t all rely on De Kock.

With news that Faf du Plessis has been rested from the ODIs, this means South Africa are a genuine batsman down, and as South Africa’s most capped ODI player with 143 ODIs under his belt, that is a lot of experience missing.

Despite my hesitation and reluctance to play him, David Miller, with his experience of 132 ODIs has to come into the team, and word is that both he and Andile Phehlukwayo will have ended their quarantine by the time the ODI series start. Phehlukwayo was sorely missed in the T20I series and will make a significant difference to the balance of the team in the ODIs.

Rassie van der Dussen is in good form at the moment having scored his highest T20I score just a few days ago, and showed his ability to score quickly. Temba Bavuma is a nuggety cricketer, quick between the wickets and a fighter, just what South Africa need in those important middle overs where you still need to tick the scoreboard over without taking too much risk.

Kyle Verreynne is a tough character and one full of so much promise and potential, his series against Australia prior to lockdown was incredible, and he deserves to have a decent time in the team.

George Linde and Keshav Maharaj are my two spinners. Linde showed his fight, passion and skill, with both bat and ball in the T20Is against England, and showed he belongs. He has the potential to be a genuine all-rounder for South Africa. Maharaj is a world class spinner and deserves his chance in the limited overs format. Tabraiz Shamsi has been the preferred option, but his performance in the final T20I left a lot to be desired. Give Maharaj a chance.

Anrich Nortje and Lungi Ngidi make up the rest of the bowling attack. Nortje has been in good touch, his pace is excellent and more importantly, he has control. Ngidi’s record in ODI cricket is good, and with Rabada injured, South Africa need someone with some experience, that rules out Dala, Stuurman, Sipampla & Hendricks.

Admittedly, it is risky going in with just five bowlers, if one of them has a bad day, Quinton will be stuck, but I am keeping faith that all the five bowlers will stick to their plans, bowl accurately and consistently in the right areas.

It’s going to be a tough series, but stick to the basics, focus and play smart cricket. That’s all we ask for.

Catch all the action of the first ODI from 1pm on Friday afternoon.