The South Africa A team will play a pivotal role in allowing the Proteas to flourish.
As the Proteas begin the long road back up the Test rankings with the series against the Black Caps looming in August, there’s another side who are indirectly looking to play their part in the mission.
For the Zimbabwe and Australia tours, the SA A selectors went for a suitable balance of promising youngsters, domestic overachievers and international seniors looking to find some form. For all the concerns surrounding the competitiveness of the sides churned out in the domestic circuit, this was a side with a lot of potential and quality.
The Zim series wasn’t exactly a flawless performance – the South Africans were expected to trounce their neighbours. They did in the second match, but the first one saw the bowlers fail to complement the performances with that bat.
To be fair, the bowlers had to make the most of a lifeless deck, and not only did it give the likes of Sisanda Magala and Dwaine Pretorius the chance to impress in national colours after successful Sunfoil Series campaigns, but it allowed Dane Piedt to get some overs under his belt ahead of the Test series. It also gave Vernon Philander the opportunity to flex his muscles and find some much-needed form after recovering from injury.
It’s these three reasons that make the SA A side such an ideal platform for players to prepare themselves for higher honours.
Philander struggled to take wickets, but he’ll have another chance to do that against Australia, and bolstering that squad will be Temba Bavuma, Wayne Parnell and Dean Elgar, who will all get some time in the middle in the bag ahead of a massively busy Test spell for the Proteas.
Andile Phehlukwayo’s fledgling professional career has produced modest returns so far, but the bowling all-rounder deserves to be there based on strong youth performances and potential, and it paid off as he took a five-fer, and he’s now got people talking optimistically about his future. After a Dolphins vs Knights game I covered in Kimberley last year, the whole team went on to the team bus back to their hotel to celebrate. A 12th man for that match, Phehlukwayo stayed behind to train and run back to the hotel instead. The 18-year-old showed professionalism and dedication beyond his years.
Theunis de Bruyn and Omphile Ramela also did exactly what was asked of them: scoring runs – pressing for that opportunity and providing depth.
On the other end of the scale are 30-plus players like Heino Kuhn and Dane Vilas, who refuse to be stranded in domestic wilderness. The selectors can’t ignore these players if they score runs, irrespective of their age. They’ve been given the platform to do exactly that with SA A, and Kuhn indeed scored a century in the second match. This is precisely how Stephen Cook got his Test debut in the first place. He went and scored a century in the second match, too, so not only does he have form under his belt, but he’s taking that straight into the Proteas side. At 33, his Test career is only just getting started.
Then there’s Stiaan van Zyl, who’s been offered the chance to remind the selectors of his abilities. In the middle order he scored a fluent and unbeaten 133 in the second match to add to his 73 and 43 not out in the first.
If there’s anyone who can attest to the value of the SA A team it’s Quinton de Kock, whose international career was in limbo last year following a long spell of lean returns. He proceeded to go back to the drawing board, work hard in the nets and get some form back in this team. The result? Three centuries and now an integral part of the Proteas’ plans in all three formats. David Miller will be looking to do the same in the Triangular series against Australia A and India A. The A team provides that get-out-of-jail card, and this can only be a good thing for the Proteas.
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