Tom Sizeland highlights five points of discussion ahead of the Proteas’ first-ever day-night Test.
MIND ON THE GAME
The ball-tampering scandal has dominated the press and buildup to this match, but, as Graeme Pollock eluded to in his recent column, the Proteas won’t let that affect them too much. The only thing that was important to them was the availability of their skipper. They’ve played excellent, positive cricket in this series, and there’s no reason why they can’t continue to do that. Faf du Plessis is an intelligent and composed cricketer who has been wrapped up in ball-tampering allegations before. He won’t let this get to him on the field. Spirits are still high in the camp and they will use that sense of togetherness to continue playing the brand of cricket they’ve been displaying recently.
Australia will be making no fewer than five changes to their side for the Adelaide clash. The Australian selection panel have done a poor job in this series and they’ve singlehandedly made the public feel that there’s no depth to their resources, when there actually is. The SA selectors on the other hand, have been superb since the transformation targets were introduced. Now that the Aussies have done a selection overhaul, which didn’t need to be this dramatic, they look a slightly stronger unit on paper. They’ve brought in three debutants in batsmen Matt Renshaw, Peter Handscomb and Nic Maddinson. I like the look of Handscomb. He’s been scoring big runs for a while now in state cricket and Australia. He started out as a wicketkeeper, but now he’s a specialist batsman and his stats are on the rise, helped along by his career-best 215 last week. Matthew Wade is a good inclusion. Australia need that trademark bark back in the field that was missing with Peter Nevill behind the stumps.
His selection has been a point of discussion throughout the series. It’s understandable if they keep an unchanged side as Keshav Maharaj hasn’t done much wrong, but this would be an ideal opportunity to hand Tabraiz Shamsi a debut. He offers a bit of a ‘mystery’ factor that the Proteas can now afford to sample with the series in the bag, and he’s a much more aggressive bowler than Maharaj, which led him to taking four wickets in the warm-up match. He’s in form, he’s hungry for action, and it’s a good opportunity for the Proteas to test their spinning depth, especially under lights where leg-spinners are apparently difficult to pick up.
FIGHTING FOR PLACES
The exciting news for Proteas fans is that there is still a lot of Test cricket to look forward to in the coming months. There are no fewer than 10 Tests to play up until August. That also means that the side will want to settle down on a first XI. At the moment, there’s only one player who’s genuinely fighting for his place, and that’s Stephen Cook. Someone has to make way for AB de Villiers, and if Cook doesn’t score big in Adelaide, that could well be curtains. JP Duminy’s place is safe for now, but he has to find some consistency or the selectors will eventually lose patience with him again, especially with Rilee Rossouw eager to get involved. Kyle Abbott looks set to be Dale Steyn’s replacement for the foreseeable future, but he will always feel like he’s one bad Test away from getting dumped again.
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