Sport

Duminy’s return to Tests should be nothing but formality

By Antoinette Muller 19 August 2013

The South African A side are currently battling it out against India A ahead of the start of South Africa’s season. JP Duminy is amongst the players pushing for a recall ahead of the Proteas tour to the UAE. While it might seem harsh to base a spot in the side on one performance, Duminy has earned the right to that luxury in the last few years. BY ANTOINETTE MULLER.

When JP Duminy tore his Achilles during South Africa’s tour of Australia last year, there was a sense of despair. Although it was always clear that he would play again, injuries have a knack of really knocking players back. Often when sportsmen return from such a harsh injury, they just can’t get back to the same heights they had previously reached.

Duminy was injured right as he was hitting a rich vein of form. He’d put in a decent performance in the Tests in England and was averaging 90.33 in the five Tests he’d played in 2012. Then disaster struck for one of South Africa’s brightest stars. Six and a half months without a single game of competitive cricket, Duminy returned by hitting an unbeaten 150 off 122 against the Netherlands ahead of the Champions Trophy. It was “just the Netherlands”, but that kind of achievement after such a long lay-off is quite something.

He followed it up with 43 against Pakistan in the first game of the Champions Trophy, and although he didn’t pass 30 for the rest of the tournament, he never looked like a player who had been out of the game for so long.

He looked equally solid on the recent tour of Sri Lanka, and with South Africa’s tour of the UAE less than two months away there is no reason Duminy shouldn’t earn a recall to the Test team straight away.

Of course the one-day game and the longest format are completely different. But the South African brain trust seems keen on getting the compact batsman back into the side. He’s been ushered off to duty with the South African A team for two four-day games against India A. He was originally due to play with Surrey in the County Championship in England, but can no longer do so because of commitments with his IPL franchise during the Champions League. Duminy managed three wickets and 84 off 222 balls as South Africa A slumped to 312-9 on day in reply to India A’s 582-9 declared. Dean Elgar managed just 11, opening the batting.

It might seem harsh to hinge a spot in a Test team on two performances, but Duminy has the chance to prove his worth. He’s up against Elgar for the final batting spot in the team, but the question remains: even if Duminy underperforms in the four-day game, should he still be picked ahead of Elgar?

Elgar scored 268, 83 and 19 against Australia A in two first-class games in July, but those figures are flattering. The pre-season pitches are desperately flat and on a head-to-head basis, Duminy trumps Elgar in every aspect, even with flattering figures next to their names.

Duminy comes with the advantage of experience and offers a handy extra option of part-time spin. Elgar broke the ridicule of his double-duck on debut with an unbeaten century against New Zealand earlier this year, but other than that he has not managed more than 30 even once in the six innings he’s played.

Duminy’s ability to convert fifties into hundreds is something South Africa will value. He’s scored four fifties in 17 Tests and converted two of those to hundreds. He’s also never gotten out in the 40-49 run range.

His main weakness will be getting off to a start. Duminy is susceptible to getting out early in his innings in Tests. Between 0-29, he’s gotten out 15 times in 26 innings, however, four-day experience and time out in the middle in the Test arena should fix that issue.

Prior to the hundred he scored against New Zealand, again on a comeback, Duminy had a very poor run of form. In nine innings, he scored all three ducks – he’s only had four in his career. He only managed to get into double figures once, and that was in 2010. He didn’t play a Test again until 2012 and he marked that return with a century.

This seems to have been Duminy’s modus operandi since he arrived with a bang on the Test circuit back in 2010. To argue some sort of statistically anomaly alone warrants his return would be nothing short of obtuse. However, his worth cannot be undervalued. It might be harsh on Elgar, but it’d be far harsher to deny Duminy another opportunity to prove that he can still live up to all those expectations he set when he rescued South Africa twice in Australia. DM

Close of play summary, day 2:

India A: 582-9, declared

Che Pujara 137 (202), Suresh Raina 135 (177); Wayne Parnell 33-12-93-3, JP Duminy 19-7-80-3

South Africa A: 312-9

Rilee Rossouw 57 (64), JP Duminy 84 (222); Ishwar Pandey 16-5-40-4, Suresh Raina 10.3-2-33-2

Photo: South Africa’s JP Duminy hits a shot during their Twenty20 World Cup Super 8 cricket match against India in Colombo October 2, 2012. REUTERS/Dinuka Liyanawatte

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