A new captain, an inexperienced bowling attack and 1-0 down in the series. South Africa have it all to do at the Wanderers.
South Africa’s best batsman faces the biggest challenge of his Test career. Taking over the captaincy in the middle of a big series can’t be easy but there is no time to reflect on it. South Africa need to win at the Wanderers to get them back in the series and De Villiers, with his energetic, instinctive leadership style is the right man to try and make that happen. He will lead by example and has what it takes to inspire his teammates. If the captaincy doesn’t affect his batting, which it shouldn’t, the Proteas will be a better team.
Can selectors afford to drop Piedt?
All the talk leading up to Test has focused on South Africa’s selections as they ponder whether or not to go with four seamers. If they do, Dane Piedt will likely have to be dropped, but that would mean that there are only three players of colour in the XI instead of Cricket South Africa’s ‘target’ of four. After what happened at the World Cup semi-final with Kyle Abbott and Vernon Philander, will CSA allow De Villiers and Domingo to do that? If they can’t the team will either stay the same or JP Duminy will have to come back in place of Piedt with Quinton de Kock opening the batting ahead of Stiaan van Zyl. That move seems unlikely. It will be interesting to see what happens.
More runs for Amla
Now that Hashim Amla has been unburdened by the captaincy and found some form in Cape Town, his team needs him to score big runs again. It would help if the openers could stay in long enough to protect him from the new ball, something which hasn’t happened very often of late. Amla will now only be judged on his batting and after a poor 2015 he owes South Africa some big scores, and what better time to do it than against England.
Dale Steyn’s constant injuries have increased the workload on Morne Morkel, who was under bowled by Amla at Newlands at strange times. Coach Russell Domingo admitted afterwards that Morkel was in the ‘red zone’ in terms of his bowling. It will be interesting to know how much he trained the past week in between Tests. While his workload has to be managed better in the absence of Steyn and Vernon Philander, Morkel wasn’t at his best in Cape Town. The conditions at the Wanderers will suite him a lot more than at Newlands which could be a handful for the English on a quick, bouncy pitch.
Can Morris fill the void?
In the absence of Vernon Philander South Africa have, for the time being, found a replacement to fill the all-rounder void in the team in Chris Morris. Granted, Morris is not as good a bowler as ‘Big Vern’, but few bowlers are. He is possibly a better batsman as showed by some of the shots he played at Newlands on his way to 69. It was valuable knock in the context of South Africa’s innings and precisely the reason Morris got the nod to play ahead of Hardus Viljoen. There is a chance both can play at the Wanderers which will not only strengthen the bowling attack but also ensure South Africa have an all-rounder coming in at No 8. Philander won’t be injured forever so Morris must prove his worth in the rest of the series.