With the Proteas Test squad to face New Zealand set to be announced at approximately 2pm today, we explore the possible options.
Vernon Philander, who suffered a slight niggle at the end of the Proteas’ Test series victory over Sri Lanka, is fit and ready for the New Zealand series starting in March.
The 31-year-old was out of cricket for over a month, after picking up a slight ankle impingement in the last Test against Sri Lanka, compounding the injury that kept him out for six months last year. Philander showed signs of a full recovery in the Cobras’ victory over the Warriors on Saturday. He ended with the most economical figures of the Cobras’ bowlers, taking the scalp of Simon Harmer and ending with 1-38 at an economy rate of 4.75.
The Proteas bowling lineup is still searching for the perfect seam-bowling combination, with Kagiso Rabada and Philander the only guaranteed players in the bowling attack. With Dale Steyn out injured, and losing Kyle Abbott to Hampshire in a Kolpak deal, there is a long list of potential candidates for the opening bowler spot. Wayne Parnell and Duanne Olivier spring to mind after their brilliant performances in the last Test against Sri Lanka, but there is a potential return for Morne Morkel on the cards after he recovered from a back injury which has put him out of the action since June last year. Morkel is the Proteas’ most experienced bowler available with 71 Test caps, and it will be a difficult decision for selectors who have to decide between youthful exuberance or experience. Chris Morris and Dwaine Pretorius, who are currently in great form for the ODI side against the Black Caps, are also making inroads for possible inclusion as all-rounders.
Keshav Maharaj and Tabraiz Shamsi will most likely keep their spots in the squad as potential spinning options.
The 32-year-old Morkel has played one game for the Titans, taking no scalps against the Dolphins in the One Day Cup, but will get a second go when he faces his compatriot Philander on Friday. Both the seamers are expected to join up with the Proteas squad if they remain fit.
The batting lineup for the Proteas is pretty much set, with Dean Elgar and Stephen Cook returning as the opening pair for the side. Hashim Amla, JP Duminy and Faf du Plessis will complete the top five, as questions still remain over Temba Bavuma’s place as the No 6 batsman in the side. There is no question about Quinton de Kock’s position as the wicketkeeper-batsman. The CSA selectors have good back-up options in Rudi Second, who finished sixth in the Sunfoil Series run-charts, with the Titans’ Heinrich Klaasen a place behind in seventh, but Heino Kuhn (13th) seems to be another option after already representing SA in the shortest format this year.
Theunis de Bruyn is expected to be a part of the squad, but has yet to make the final cut in the side, despite boasting a remarkable Sunfoil Series record which saw him end third on the scorer’s list with 751 runs @ 57.76. Khaya Zondo put himself in line with 740 runs at 67.27, including two centuries and five half-centuries, but we can assume that Bavuma will be given another run at No 6.
Potential lineup: Stephen Cook, Dean Elgar, Hashim Amla, JP Duminy, Faf du Plessis (c), Temba Bavuma, Quinton de Kock (wk), Vernon Philander, Keshav Maharaj, Duanne Olivier, Kagiso Rabada.
Photo: Lee Warren/Gallo Images