There is little doubt that South Africa will pick their best possible team for the second Test against India and improve the balance of the side.
The Proteas struggled with only five specialist batsmen and Dane Vilas in the first Test, twice getting bowled out for less than 200. While the bowlers did well enough in Mohali, the batsmen let the team down with poor application and decision making.
That will have to improve in Bangalore come Saturday.
JP Duminy and Morne Morkel are expected to be fit for the clash and they should slot straight back into the XI. Dale Steyn’s participation is less certain. The fast bowler is struggling with a groin strain and it is unlikely the selectors will risk him if he isn’t 100% fit.
There are still three Tests left and losing Steyn for just one game will be less of a blow compared to him missing the rest of the series if they gamble on his fitness now.
Duminy’s return means it is unlikely South Africa will field two specialist spinners again, especially if Steyn recovers in time. Although both Simon Harmer and Imran Tahir did well in the first Test, it would not make sense to have both of them in the team when the likes of Dean Elgar and Duminy are there to help share the load.
Three seamers, three spinners and a part-timer in Stiaan van Zyl should be enough ammunition to bowl India out twice. SACricketmag.com writer Tom Sizeland writes that South Africa have the right balance in the batting order when Duminy returns, but that they are batting in the wrong order.
It’s an interesting argument and certainly worth exploring, but it is unlikely to happen in the middle of a Test series in India. Now is perhaps not the right time to start fiddling with the batting order, especially after just one Test. However, there is little doubt that AB de Villiers should bat at No 4.
A less disruptive reshuffle would be to move De Villiers to No 4 and Hashim Amla to No 3, while Faf du Plessis shifts down the order to No 5 with Stiaan van Zyl remaining Dean Elgar’s opening partner. These changes are also unlikely to be implemented in the next Test but they should have little effect on the players who have batted in those positions before.
For now, the batting order isn’t really the problem. Scoring runs is and it is here where the focus will be when the second Test starts on Saturday.