The injury to Aiden Markram and subsequent call-up of Keegan Petersen point to Cape Cobras stalwart Pieter Malan finally making his Test bow in the new year.
Petersen has received the call to join the 16-man squad, but it would be a real shock if he was asked to try to blunt the England attack alongside Dean Elgar.
Markram’s partnership with Elgar was one of the obstacles standing between Malan and his long-overdue Test debut. The Cobras man can bat anywhere in the top six, but has extensive experience opening across all three formats. While Markram was fit, the Proteas were reluctant to break up the promising union between the former U19 skipper and ‘Bulldog’ Elgar.
Malan has done everything he possibly could to ensure that he is next in line to be a Proteas Test player, scoring over 10,000 first-class runs at an average of more than 45, with 32 tons in the mix.
Newlands is Malan’s franchise home ground, and unlike many other venues around the country, the nature of the pitch is generally the same in first-class cricket as in Test matches.
If South Africa bat first in the new year’s Test, there is no better man available to front their challenge in the first hour than Malan. The 30-year-old is the only sensible choice in the squad of 16, with his experience of conditions at Newlands invaluable and his track record unequalled among uncapped first-class batsmen.
Malan opened in the South Africa A meeting with England in Benoni and has been involved in the second-string set-up for several series, including the recent tour to India. He scored more than 800 runs in each of the last two completed 4-Day Domestic Series matches and already has two first-class tons to his name this season.
If Malan is not picked to open the batting for the Proteas against England, it would suggest that franchise cricket is of little to no value and will cast serious doubt on how player progression is handled in South Africa.
Should he get his chance and shine, it will serve as a great example to franchise cricketers to keep at it, but another snub could have a knock-on effect on other promising fringe players.
To not name Malan in the XI for the second Test would be folly, given the evident lack of any other suitable candidate.
Photo: Gallo Images