The decision to have Dane Paterson stay with the Proteas in between the second and third Tests against England, instead of returning to the 4-Day Domestic Series with the Cape Cobras, suggests another debut in Port Elizabeth.
Pieter Malan, Rassie van der Dussen, Dwaine Pretorius – Test debuts for 30-year-old players have become somewhat of a theme this series. Paterson would add to the succession. Conditions at St George’s Park will likely be primed for reverse swing. Paterson is among the country’s better purveyors of the art.
Experience is not lacking, as he has played over 100 first-class fixtures and would offer a different dynamic to the current Test bowling attack. How to fit him into the XI, though, is a challenging conundrum.
Resting Kagiso Rabada probably isn’t the right choice at a crucial juncture in the four-Test series. Omitting Vernon Philander would limit the batting resources. St George’s Park is Anrich Nortje’s homeground. Keshav Maharaj will be important at a venue expected to be conducive to spin. Dropping a batsman such as, say, Zubayr Hamza to add an additional seamer would not be wise. Perhaps Pretorius will be benched. That, too, would hamper the batting resources and not bode well for faith in the system. Pretorius, remember, was recently convinced to avoid a Kolpak contract by director of cricket Graeme Smith.
England assistant coach Paul Collingwood’s recent comments about the likely selection of Mark Wood in Port Elizabeth resonate with preference for Paterson, too.
‘I’ve got no qualms Mark could come in this week. He has the skills to go out there and make an impact. Here at Port Elizabeth it’s generally a slower pitch, so sometimes having that kind of X-factor bowler would be great,’ said Collingwood.
Paterson, indeed, has X factor. But he is a banker as well. In late 2018, he was added to the Test squad during the series against Pakistan as cover for the injury-prone Philander. Over a year later, Mark Boucher sees in him now what Ottis Gibson saw then.
This week is the right time to trial Paterson at Test level. He has been thereabouts for a prolonged period, biding time through a dozen ODIs and T20Is since October 2017’s debut.
Kyle Abbott, Marchant de Lange, Duanne Olivier and more – South Africa have short line of fast bowlers who have succeeded on Test debut. Paterson is one firm decision and an empowered opening spell away from adding to this.
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