Sport

Cricket: Uncertainty around South Africa’s Test opening berth

By Antoinette Muller 2 June 2015

South Africa will travel to Bangladesh with an interesting mix of players in all formats. There’s plenty of selection intrigue across all the squads as South Africa begins preparations for tough assignments against India and England later in the year. By ANTOINETTE MULLER.

South Africa will head to Bangladesh for a two-Test tour late in July and the squad they announced dished up a few surprises. Firstly, AB de Villiers will miss the series after being granted paternity leave and, as a result, the opening berth will offer the most intrigue. Stiaan van Zyl was earmarked to take over the vacancy left by Alviro Petersen, but the inclusion of Reeza Hendricks in the Test squad might indicate that the selectors have other plans.

Van Zyl has spent most of his career batting at three, but was elevated up the order during the A-team’s series against the England Lions and for his franchise during the latter stages of the domestic season. It seemed a foregone conclusion that Van Zyl would be the man to take over, but with De Villiers out of the team, South Africa have a little more room to manoeuvre. Van Zyl could slot into De Villiers’ spot at number four with Hendricks partnering at the top of the order with Dean Elgar. Should Hendricks assume the opening berth ahead of Van Zyl, it might scupper the Cobras’ batsmen’s chances of permanent place in the team yet again. A good performance from Hendricks would leave the selectors in a pickle ahead of South Africa’s tour to India and with England coming to visit later in the year. You have to feel for Van Zyl. He has had to wait a long time for his call-up to finally arrive and now that it has, he might be pushed to the sidelines once again. But such is the nature of the beast when it comes to international sport.

Temba Bavuma could also muscle his way into the team, with Van Zyl opening and Bavuma batting lower down, while Dane Vilas will provide wicket-keeping back-up to Quinton de Kock. Kagiso Rabada also cracked the nod for the Test squad, but is unlikely to feature, barring injury or some seriously brave selection. Rabada has certainly earned his spot and has gone from Under-19 World Cup winning superstar to already looking like a seasoned first-class bowler. However, Hardus Viljoen might feel hard done by not making it into any of the squads, while Lions’ opener Stephen Cook, last season’s Sunfoil Series top scorer, also has reason to be a little miffed.

Still, the overall make-up of the Test squad makes it clear that selectors are thinking long-term, with consistency in selection in mind.

There is just one surprise. Aaron Phangiso, often referred to as a limited overs specialist, was included in the Test squad with selectors saying he adds variety to the mix, a useful thing for the turning pitches South Africa can expect to greet them in Bangladesh. Phangiso played just one first-class game for the Lions this season, taking two wickets at an average of 30.25. Eddie Leie, the leggie from the Lions who did crack the nod for the limited overs squad, will count himself unlucky to have missed out. Leie played five games for the Lions, taking 13 wickets at an average of 43.15. Phangiso is unlikely to earn a cap, though, with JP Duminy’s part-time spin and Simon Harmer’s offies likely to suffice against Bangladesh. There was no place for Dane Piedt, though, who has struggled for form since undergoing shoulder injury following a stellar debut against Zimbabwe last year.

For the time being, the Test squad will be much the same ahead of preparations for tougher assignments, but the limited overs squads will offer plenty of tantalising prospects.

Rabada cracked the nod for the one-day squad and, as expected, Dale Steyn will be rested as well as Vernon Philander, which could see Rabada make his ODI debut. Chris Morris and Ryan McLaren also return after missing out on World Cup berths.

With a World T20 to build towards next year, the squad for the shortest format of the game offers the most intrigue. Leie is part of the side and there is no Imran Tahir, who only made the one-day side. Leie will have to compete with Phangiso for a starting berth but the selectors might very well use the series for trial and error combinations. David Wiese is also in the team, as is Beuran Hendricks and most will be keeping a beady eye in Weise. He had a solid season in the Indian Premier League and has been touted as being in the Lance Klusener mould. If he plays, and comes off, Wiese could very well become one of the most important members of the World T20 to be held in India next year.

South Africa’s tour of Bangladesh begins with a warm-up match on 3 July followed by two T20s, three ODIs and two Tests concluding on 3 August.

South Africa Test squad: Hashim Amla (capt), Dean Elgar, Reeza Hendricks, Faf du Plessis, Stiaan van Zyl, JP Duminy, Quinton de Kock, Vernon Philander, Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel, Aaron Phangiso, Simon Harmer, Temba Bavuma, Kagiso Rabada, Dane Vilas

ODI squad: AB de Villiers (capt), Hashim Amla (vice-capt), Quinton de Kock, Faf du Plessis, Rilee Rossouw, JP Duminy, David Miller, Farhaan Behardien, Chris Morris, Morne Morkel, Imran Tahir, Kagiso Rabada, Kyle Abbott, Aaron Phangiso, Wayne Parnell, Ryan McLaren

T20 squad: Faf du Plessis (capt), Quinton de Kock, Rilee Rossouw, AB de Villiers, JP Duminy, David Miller, David Wiese, Chris Morris, Kyle Abbott, Kagiso Rabada, Aaron Phangiso, Eddie Leie, Wayne Parnell, Beuran Hendricks DM

Photo: South Africa’s Hashim Amla celebrates reaching his century as he is watched by teammate AB de Villiers (L) and England’s Matt Prior (R) during the third cricket test match at Lord’s in London August 19, 2012. REUTERS/Philip Brown

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