Former Proteas coach Eric Simons believes that JP Duminy deserves his place in the Test side.
Pundits and media alike have been calling for Duminy’s axe recently, but Simons, in an exclusive interview with SA Cricket magazine, is quick to defend his place in the side going forward.
‘In the first innings there was glimpses of the JP Duminy we know in his 88,’ he says. ‘It was a pity that he could not score some runs in the second innings as the momentum would would’ve been good for him. I don’t believe he should be dropped because there is no one putting their hand up and standing out for selectors. Who is scoring hundreds in domestic cricket?’
Although it won’t be fair or reasonable to take the one-and-a-half match series as indication of a definitive comeback, there were many positives to take. Simons gave his insight on the current performance and what the future holds for South Africa on their hunt to reclaim the No 1 spot.
‘We were always going to be too much for NZ,’ Simons says. ‘I never thought they would be on our level because the conditions favoured South Africa.
‘I don’t want to say we were lucky, but we were fortunate that the conditions favoured us in the first session which could have gone either way.’
He refrained form criticising Kane Williamson on his decision to bowl first, saying:
‘People will look at Kane Williamson’s decision to bowl first and think he got it wrong when a team scores 480, but it could have easily been South Africa sitting on 55-4 in those conditions. Faf mentioned he would have bowled first too, so it was not a poor decision and things went our way.’
Stephen Cook and Quinton De Kock’s partnership was crucial to South Africa’s strong first innings, scoring the first 100-run opening partnership in three years. Simons had high praise for De Kock and Cook for their excellent performance.
‘Quinton and Stephen deserve a lot of credit for sticking to the game plan. The ball swung tremednously and their reading of the game was tremendous,’ he says.
Besides the amazing performance by the batting line-up, which set up the game for the Proteas, it was SA’s bowling attack that stood out. Particularly the return of Steyn and Philander, after a lengthy time on the sidelines. Their partnership played a significant role in finishing NZ off.
Simons was delighted with the performance of Steyn, and believes that his form is crucial to the foundation of the bowling attack. He is truly the catalyst for success and will play an integral part in the Test series taking place in Australia in November.
‘The way Dale Steyn got his wickets was incredible and when he’s firing like that it brings everybody into balance, boasting a bowling attack that has some real metal to it.
‘It was difficult to see him battle with his swing for a while.’ says Simons ‘It excites me to see him perform like he did on day four.’
Vernon Philander also made a strong comeback, and his partnership with Steyn is vital for the series against Australia. Philander will need some more time with the ball to get back to his very best, and it could be something for the captain to ponder over considering the way Kagiso Rabada is performing, too.
‘I sense a bit of rustiness in the legs of Vernon,’ Simons says. ‘But he needs to get some more bowling under his belt before Australia to get sufficiently ready.’
A big question hassling supporters is selection. AB de Villiers and Morne Morkel both return after injury calling for difficult decisions to be made by selectors. Dean Elgar, who picked up an injury moments before the second Test, will slot back in to the opening slot at the top of the order, with Quniton de Kock moving down the order.
Simons had some interesting comments regarding the next squad selection, highlighting the inclusion of Tabraiz Shamsi.
‘Morne needs to come back and I think Tabraiz Shamsi’s good form for SA A has made him deserving of a call up.
‘I watch to see the process we follow. The execution of the game-plan is what excites me. This is how I determine whether we are making significant progress.’
Photo: Anesh Debiky/Gallo Images