With the 2015 English County season upon us, SACricketmag.com takes a look at those South Africans who will play a key part.
1. Colin Ingram announced in November last year a blossoming career in South African domestic cricket had met its end, for the foreseeable future, and a promising stint in English County cricket would commence six months later. That time has come – and the 29-year-old Kolpak recruit will head into Glamorgan’s first-class campaign on the back of a fine stretch of form. The talented left-hander finished second only to Stephen Cook in the 2014-15 Sunfoil Series’ run-scoring ranks, amassing 852 in 19 innings at a solid average of 53.25. His maiden season as full-time captain of the Warriors, though, brought less success – a wooden spoon finish, to be exact. Ingram will be accompanied by seasoned South African and county veteran Jacques Rudolph at Glamorgan. Collectively capped 134 times at international level, the pair will offer plenty of Proteas experience to a first team squad lacking any English international cricketers.
2. Vernon Philander has been signed by Nottinghamshire for a very specific period, allowing enough time to recover from the disappointment of the World Cup – and ample opportunity to prepare for South Africa’s tour of Bangladesh. Philander will be available for six County Championship and three T20 Blast fixtures, effectively sharing the overseas player’s berth with Australian Ben Hilfenhaus, who will join when Philander departs. This presents a great platform for both seamers, as Hilfenhaus prepares for conditions akin to those on offer during the upcoming Ashes series – and Philander faces several batsman eager to gain important insights ahead of England’s tour of South Africa toward the end of the year. A fixture against Middlesex at Lord’s would be a particular treat for the all-rounder, who clinched seven key wickets and scored an important half-century in a convincing third Test victory against England at the venue less than three years ago.
3. Alviro Petersen is a veritable county cricket journeyman, having played for Essex, Somerset and Glamorgan. He captained the latter, too, but was quick to depart when favour among the national selectors grew. He has since retired from international cricket, though, and the British pound’s lucrative earning potential has seen him return to England. Proverbial bridges were burnt at Glamorgan, but Lancashire have welcomed him. The club endured a poor 2014 season and have been relegated. The arrival of Petersen to the batting ranks – and Australian seamer Peter Siddle to the bowling department – are the first steps in fighting for a return to the first division. Ashwell Prince, meanwhile, has remained with the club – and the stalwart left-hander could relish the chance to rekindle a top- through middle-order partnership alongside the right-handed Petersen.
4. Richard Levi‘s ongoing bid to crawl from the pigeon hole of limited-overs cricket will certainly be aided by a taxing season of county cricket. Whereas he was boxed as a T20 Blast or One-Day Cup specialist in the past, Levi has emerged as a genuine contender for one of the opening berths in the County Championship. The relatively experienced batsman will bring balance to a squad flush with the experience of Pakistan’s Shahid Afridi and somewhat lacking in the youth of the homegrown Olly Stone or Rob Newton. Levi is no stranger to Northamptonshire – and was one of several pivotal players in the Friends Life T20 title-winning campaign in 2013. South African seamer Rory Kleinveldt’s 2014 stint with the club was blocked by CSA due to injury and fitness concerns. Kleinveldt has since fallen down the Proteas’ pecking order, but a fruitful county season might push him back up.
5. The County Championship will further expose and unearth many other cricketers with South African connections. Kepler Wessels’ son, Riki, will play for Nottinghamshire – and Ray Jennings’ son, Keaton, will represent Durham. The Johannesburg-born Greg Smith got married in the Western Cape recently – and spent the season with Cape Town Cricket Club before returning to Essex, which is also home to the Port Elizabeth-born Ryan ten Doeschate. Alfonso Thomas, though, is surely the most high profile of the lot. The proud owner of one T20I cap for South Africa, against Pakistan in 2007, the 38-year-old almost returned to his old haunt at the Cobras last season before injury tolled. He is now working with Gary Kirsten, JP Duminy, Imran Tahir, Albie Morkel and company at the Delhi Daredevils in the Indian Premier League as a bowling coach – and will go back to Somerset thereafter.