As the Proteas head into the first Test against the West Indies, CRAIG LEWIS picks three things that would be good to see as Mark Boucher’s charges look to turn around their red-ball fortunes.
Back in May, the Proteas slipped down to a lowly seventh position in the ICC Test rankings, having succumbed to a meek 2-0 defeat by Pakistan in an away series.
Yet, with the appointment of Dean Elgar as Test captain, and plenty of internal discussions about the ambition to restore the Proteas’ formidability on the international stage, there is sure to be plenty riding on this two-Test series against the West Indies.
And if it is to be the start of a bold new dawn, these would be three steps in the right direction:
AMBITIOUS AND INNOVATIVE CAPTAINCY FROM ELGAR
In the recent first Test at Lord’s, New Zealand skipper Kane Williamson rolled the dice with an enterprising declaration at 169-6 during lunch on the last day that left England with a target of 273 in 75 overs.
England ultimately opted against going all out for victory, and as they laboured to a draw, it was undoubtedly New Zealand who achieved a moral victory.
As the 33-year-old Elgar takes charge of the Proteas Test captaincy, you sense the veteran opener could be just the sort of leader who falls into the Williamson camp of looking for results rather than a safety-first option.
This series against the West Indies presents a perfect opportunity for Elgar to stamp his style of leadership on proceedings with some innovative field placements, and creative employment of bowling strategies.
As one of the Proteas ultimate fighters in that opening-batsman role, you’d imagine he will lead from the front with the bat, but it would be fantastic to see some equally bold decision-making as captain.
UNEQUIVOCAL BACKING OF KYLE VERREYNNE
In a recent interview, Cobras coach Ashwell Prince unequivocally insisted that Kyle Verreynne was one of the top batsmen in South African cricket across all formats.
With Temba Bavuma under an injury cloud, it may well open the door for Verreynne to make a long-awaited Test debut, and it would be an enthralling prospect to see him in Test whites.
It’s time for the 24-year-old to receive the full backing of the Proteas selectors and to receive an extended run to nail down his place in international cricket.
In the lead-up to this first Test, Lungi Ngidi stated that it’s ‘been a while since we’ve been able to put in solid, convincing performances and blow teams away’.
Although this was in reference to a target of claiming a 2-0 clean sweep over the West Indies, he may as well have also been referring to the fast-bowling unit.
Particularly with the talk of a seamer-friendly wicket that’s awaiting in St Lucia, it would be a fantastic prospect to see Ngidi, Kagiso Rabada and Anrich Nortje firing on all cylinders as a fast-bowling combination.
In recent series, it’s too often been a case of one bowler or the other finding their best rhythm, rather than operating as a menacing combined force from either end to ensure there is no let-up for the batsmen.
After a decent period of rest and preparation for all three pacemen, all the ingredients appear to be there for the trio to blow the opposition away in the West Indies.