In the final instalment of a three-part series, SA Cricket magazine’s writers pick their best post-isolation Proteas Test XI.
GARY LEMKE: We’re into the ‘tail’ and yet, having selected a top six and a wicketkeeper with five Test hundreds so far, it’s only really Nos 10 and 11 who will admit their role is exclusively with ball in hand, although getting No 10 to admit it would be easier said than done.
The country has been blessed with quality fast bowlers over the years, although Hugh ‘Toey’ Tayfield was a off-spinner whose 9-113 against England at the Wanderers in 1957 remains the best match haul of any South African in Test history.
Since the return from isolation it’s been a battery of pace, bowlers who’ve grown up on famously quick and bouncy wickets at home. My all-pace attack is led by Dale Steyn and Vernon Philander for a burst of four and six overs, respectively, in an ‘ideal’ situation.
Then there’s Allan Donald to replace Steyn (he’s the No 10 in the order) and Shaun Pollock to take over from Philander – and the bowlers are rotated in short spells, backed up by Jacques Kallis (already selected in the top six for his batting), if required.
LEMKE’S TEST XI – 1 Graeme Smith (c), 2 Herschelle Gibbs, 3 Hashim Amla, 4 Jacques Kallis, 5 Daryll Cullinan, 6 AB de Villiers, 7 Mark Boucher (wk), 8 Shaun Pollock, 9 Vernon Philander, 10 Dale Steyn, 11 Allan Donald.
JON CARDINELLI: I like the idea of including a spinner in a Test team, as it lends an attack variety. Unfortunately, South Africa have failed to back many slow bowlers over the past 28 years and the top wicket-takers during this period are all seamers. Perhaps that will change in the near future, with Keshav Maharaj developing into a world-class Test spinner and bucking the trend.
Dale Steyn and Vernon Philander are opening the bowling for my Best Proteas Test XI. No South African has taken more wickets (439), 10-fors (five) and five-fors (26) than one of the great fast bowlers of this or any other era. We should remember Steyn for his incredible strike rate (42.3) as well as his tendency to take key wickets at crucial moments of a contest.
While Philander has never been lightning quick, his ability to move the ball off the surface made him one of the most successful – and ultimately one of the most feared – bowlers of the last decade.
Allan Donald preceded Steyn as a fiery fast bowler with an appetite for a contest against great batsmen such as Sachin Tendulkar, Brian Lara and others of that era. Shaun Pollock was not as quick as Steyn or Donald, and yet his nagging accuracy as well his ability to strategise and set batsmen up earned him 421 wickets.
Jacques Kallis, who I included as a key member of my top six, would provide an excellent fifth option in this attack. Kallis is ranked sixth on South Africa’s list of wicket-takers (292).
CARDINELLI’S TEST XI – 1 Graeme Smith (c), 2 Herschelle Gibbs, 3 Hashim Amla, 4 Jacques Kallis, 5 AB de Villiers, 6 Daryll Cullinan, 7 Mark Boucher (wk), 8 Shaun Pollock, 9 Vernon Philander, 10 Dale Steyn, 11 Allan Donald.
WADE PRETORIUS: This is the one ‘grey’ area, I feel, when it comes to selection. We don’t know the pitch conditions but let’s assume it’s a home Test. Newlands takes a bit of turn but other venues and the fact we have a certain Jacques Kallis as the fifth option, mean like everyone else I’m playing four seamers. I was tempted to throw in the mystery of Paul Adams, but he wasn’t effective for long enough.
That leaves four seamers … Dale Steyn and Allan Donald open the attack with Shaun Pollock, a more than adequate first-change option as the country’s second-highest wicket-taker.
It’s either Vernon Philander or Kagiso Rabada … it seems cruel to try to pick between them but for how my attack is shaping up I will be going with the latter. No one has to sell me on Philander’s abilities and his numbers are self-explanatory but he needs the new ball where Rabada could bowl with a cherry 40 overs old on a flat St George’s Park wicket and still damage the opposition lineup.
PRETORIUS’ TEST XI – 1 Graeme Smith (c), 2 Gary Kirsten, 3 Hashim Amla, 4 Jacques Kallis, 5 AB de Villiers, 6 Herschelle Gibbs, 7 Quinton de Kock (wk), 8 Shaun Pollock, 9 Kagiso Rabada, 10 Dale Steyn, 11 Allan Donald.
CRAIG LEWIS: Damn, it says a lot that it’s such a struggle for any of us to include a spinner in our perfect Proteas Test XIs. So be it, though, and fortunately there are a ton of world-class fast bowlers to pick from.
Of course, Shaun Pollock is the perfect pick at No 7 as another all-rounder who has a primary role with the ball. There’s also no ways I could leave out Dale Steyn or Allan Donald. Sheesh, just imagine a world where these two could be operating in tandem.
This leaves a shootout of sorts between Makhaya Ntini, Vernon Philander and Kagiso Rabada. Ultimately, I’m not sure how you’d get the new ball out of the hands of Pollock, Steyn or Donald, which leads me to pick young gun Rabada, who has all the raw talent to still do immense damage as a second- or third-change bowler.
LEWIS’ TEST XI – 1 Graeme Smith (c), 2 Gary Kirsten, 3 Hashim Amla, 4 Jacques Kallis, 5 AB de Villiers, 6 Quinton de Kock, 7 Mark Boucher (wk), 8 Shaun Pollock, 9 Kagiso Rabada, 10 Dale Steyn, 11 Allan Donald.
JONHENRY WILSON: There is no space for a spinner in this hypothetical XI, as Shaun Pollock, Dale Steyn, Makhaya Ntini and Allan Donald comprise the seam attack. Donald and Steyn, at his prime, would share the new ball.
Alternatively, Donald and Pollock. No room for Vernon Philander and Morne Morkel here. If a spinner were to replace a seamer in this XI, then Nicky Boje (he of 100 Test wickets and ability with the bat) would replace Donald.
WILSON’S TEST XI – 1 Graeme Smith (c), 2 Gary Kirsten, 3 Hashim Amla, 4 Jacques Kallis, 5 Daryll Cullinan, 6 AB de Villiers, 7 Mark Boucher (wk), 8 Shaun Pollock, 9 Dale Steyn, Makhaya Ntini, 11 Allan Donald.
ANDRE HUISAMEN: The biggest test with selecting four bowlers in this XI, is if you’re going to add a spinner. If the Proteas’ record since 1992 is properly examined, it is quite evident that seam bowlers have been the key ingredient to our most successful bowling units. The likes of Paul Harris and Nicky Boje all proved effective at certain periods, but the quality of fast bowlers our country has produced over the years has been terrific.
Joining many other writers here, I am going to combine some of the older bowlers with the most recent ones to play for the Proteas. Shaun Pollock was a great batsman as well, meaning he comes in at No 8 for me. As was Vernon Philander – go watch his game-changing half-century against England at Lord’s in 2012 if you want proof – followed by speedsters Dale Steyn and Allan Donald. Having said that, Makhaya Ntini could also get my nod due to his consistency over the years.
HUISAMEN’S TEST XI – 1 Graeme Smith (c), 2 Herschelle Gibbs, 3 Hashim Amla, 4 Jacques Kallis, AB de Villiers, 6 Hansie Cronje, 7 Quinton de Kock, (wk), 8 Shaun Pollock, 9 Vernon Philander, 10 Dale Steyn, 11 Allan Donald.
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