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Proteas batters respond to captain Elgar’s call for big runs

Proteas batters respond to captain Elgar’s call for big runs
Dean Elgar of South Africa batting during Day Three of the Third LV Insurance Test Match between England and South Africa at The Kia Oval on 10 September, 2022 in London, England. (Photo: Visionhaus/Getty Images)

South African Test captain Dean Elgar called for more runs from his batters at domestic level as the Proteas prepare for a three-match Test tour to Australia next month. They have responded resoundingly.

The Proteas’ next, formidable Test challenge awaits in Australia next month and there is a glimmer of hope after some of the batters displayed good domestic form.

South Africa’s batting unit will face one of the best seam attacks in the world down under, and on paper there will only be one winner. Australia’s Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood and Pat Cummins are a fearsome trio, particularly in home conditions. They have collectively taken 701 wickets in Test cricket. And 423, or 60% of those, have been taken in Australia.

The sharp seam of Cameron Green is another problem while Nathan Lyon’s off-spin has yielded 438 Test wickets. And then there is Scott Boland, waiting for a chance to continue a Test career that is stalled behind the big three seamers. 

The Victorian has taken 18 wickets in three Tests at 9.55 and could well be used at his home venue, the Melbourne Cricket Ground. The challenges will be relentless for the Proteas top order.

Proteas skipper Dean Elgar averages 38.83 in Test cricket, which is the highest in the current squad. But in four Tests in Australia, he only averages 23.

With a fragile batting lineup, Elgar issued a rallying cry to his men earlier this month.

“Batters around the country need to familiarise themselves with batting time. If I look at the last season of Test cricket, as a batting unit we didn’t fulfil that responsibility. We had a few good starts where we got the 30s and the 40s but we went out pretty early after that and that’s just poor,” said Elgar to Cricket Fanatics Magazine.

“The past few series that we’ve had as a batting unit, we have dropped the ball just purely out of our focus, our patience and discipline at the crease and maybe forgetting about what is the batters’ job in the longer format and that’s to bat time.

“More times than not if you’re batting time and you’re occupying overs out of the game you’re going to be scoring runs naturally. Those are some of the areas I hope the batters around the country will be focusing on. We need those guys to put their hands up because we have a big series coming up against the Aussies,” he said.

“Gone are the days where averaging 35 is going to get you in the Test squad. You need to average 50 and above. You need those numbers to get recognition and to be successful at the Test level.

“We really need guys making massive inroads and massive performances with regards to big numbers on the board. For me that’s always going to be the standard throughout South African cricket,” he added.

Elgar received an immediate response in the recently concluded round of four-day domestic fixtures.

Keeper’s delight

Heinrich Klaasen, who was a surprise inclusion in the Proteas touring squad, laid down the biggest marker with a career-high 292 in the Titans’ innings and 42-run victory over the Knights at SuperSport Park in Centurion.


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His runs came in only 240 balls as he bludgeoned an incredible 39 fours and nine sixes.

The Proteas selectors have been toying with the idea of playing seven batters, instead of the usual six, in the lineup against Australia — to accommodate the recently brittle batting lineup.

With Klaasen selected as the second-choice wicketkeeper to Kyle Verreynne, his excellent form might sway the Proteas selectors’ hand into choosing him as an out-and-out batter in the lineup.

Heinrich Klaasen, Proteas

Heinrich Klaasen of South Africa playing a shot during day 3 of the 3rd Test match between India and South Africa at JSCA International Stadium Complex on 21 October, 2019 in Ranchi, India. (Photo: Isuru Sameera Peris/Gallo Images)

Verreynne, himself, continued to prove why he is too good to only be playing domestic cricket the past four-day competition round. The new Western Province captain struck an impressive unbeaten 201 off 221 deliveries in his side’s innings and 210-run victory over the Paarl Rocks at Newlands.

Verreynne looked comfortable at the crease throughout his innings, a good sign for the Proteas’ No 1 gloveman in Tests.

Despite his excellent glovework, Verreynne has struggled with the bat at the highest level and will be hoping to carry his form to Australia. He averages 29.93 in Test cricket while his first-class average is an astonishing 52.1.

Ryan Rickelton, who was ineligible for selection to Australia due to an apparent ankle injury, strode out to the crease for the Lions against the North West Dragons last week.

Despite the niggle, he also kept wicket for his side. Rickelton missed out in the first innings, scoring only 15 runs but cashed in in the second with a magnificent 100 not out to help his side to a 341-run victory in Potchefstroom.

Top-order runs

Elgar laid the platform for Klaasen’s onslaught in their match as he scored a well-constructed 137 off 191 deliveries — his first century in 12 months.

Elgar’s form and grit upfront will be integral to set the foundation for the rest of the batters in Australia.

Elgar’s opening partner, Sarel Erwee, on the other hand, has gotten off to a slow start this domestic season scoring 11 and 28 for the Dolphins against the Warriors in their 69-run defeat in Gqeberha.

Khaya Zondo, who made his Test debut against India earlier this year also struggled for form in the same match as he scored only 15 and 31 as the pair failed to give their Dolphins side a noteworthy contribution.

Rassie van der Dussen — who has been sidelined with a finger injury for the past two and a half months — made a comeback this past round with a solid 45 off 70 deliveries in the first innings before falling for 10 in the second.

Van der Dussen batted at No 3 for the Lions which is a good sign for the Proteas as they will be without regular first-drop Keegan Petersen in Australia after he sustained a torn hamstring.

South Africa’s Test vice-captain, Temba Bavuma did not play in the past round of fixtures as he continues to take a break after the T20 World Cup.

Kyle Verreynne, Proteas

Kyle Verreynne of the Proteas during day 3 of the 2nd ICC WTC2 Betway Test match between South Africa and Bangladesh at St George’s Park on 10 April, 2022 in Gqeberha, South Africa. (Photo: Lee Warren/Gallo Images)

Bowlers

The Proteas’ first-choice bowling lineup of Kagiso Rabada, Lungi Ngidi, Anrich Nortje, Marco Jansen and Keshav Maharaj did not take part in the last round of domestic fixtures but are all expected to play one round before they board the plane to Australia.

Meanwhile, Gerald Coetzee, who earned his maiden Test call-up, had a torrid match bowling to the Titans’ Proteas stars. He bowled 22 overs and conceded 147 runs at an economy of 6.68 without picking up a wicket for the Knights as Klaasen in particular tucked into his extra pace.

Glenton Stuurman, who went wicketless in his Warriors side’s victory over the Dolphins, has been ruled out of the tour to Australia due to an injury he picked up in the match.

He has been replaced by the Titans’ Lizaad Williams who picked up six wickets in 27 overs in his side’s victory over the Knights. DM

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Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Wayne Harris says:

    So the player who needs match practice more than any other, is “taking a break” before the tests against the Aussies?
    Surely CSA can`t allow this situation – is he still recovering mentally from our pathetic performance at the T20 World Cup?

  • Philip Armstrong says:

    If Bavuma indeed is taking a mental (?) break from the game and now taking him to the toughest arena of all, Australia, that will just wipe him out? CSA has done this time and time again in the blind pursuit of quotas and have thrown some really promising talent, still to mature, to the wolves? Will they ever learn?

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