The Proteas’ batting is desperately short of experience and X factor. The options for change are limited, but RYAN VREDE picks a team that could win the series at The Oval.
The Proteas selectors head into Thursday’s series decider with myriad decisions. Some changes should be easy, like dropping Aiden Markram, whose form has been dreadful. Others are more complex and will depend heavily on pitch and weather conditions on Thursday morning.
Reports suggest there is a healthy grass covering on The Oval pitch at present, while rain is predicted in the buildup to the Test. This makes it more likely that the Proteas will abandon their two-spinner approach, in favour of bringing a seamer back into the mix.
It stands to reason that Marco Jansen would likely replace Simon Harmer. The rest of the attack picks itself, which can’t be said for the batters.
“If you don’t score enough, you’re not going to win Test matches. That’s the bottom line,” Charl Langeveldt said on Sunday. He echoed skipper Dean Elgar’s assessment of what went wrong in the second Test.
It is clear that Proteas are most vulnerable in this dimension of their game. They weren’t helped by Elgar’s incorrect decision to bat first on a wicket that was always going to offer the seamers plenty of assistance on day one, and in weather conditions that compounded that batting challenge.
Furthermore, the gulf in quality of the batting innings between the first and second Tests was concerning and needs to be remedied urgently.
The opening pair are promising, with Sarel Erwee showing enough in his short career to suggest that he can end the years-long search for a competent partner for Elgar.
The shine has worn off Keegan Petersen’s incredible summer, but he is a fine player who is worth investing in. He rarely gets out early in an innings, indeed in his 16 he has been out between 15 and 40 – widely considered to be set at the crease – nine times in 16 innings. The challenge for Petersen in the next phase of his career is to capitalise on these foundations.
Things get bad thereafter. Rassie van der Dussen is out of the third Test, which further depletes the experience in the batting lineup. Add to this that there is no legitimate cricket reason to persist with Markram, and you’re looking at two new specialist batters being added to the mix.
Of the options available, I think those should be Khaya Zondo and Ryan Rickelton.
Zondo averaged 56 in the domestic four-day series this season and deserves a crack on that basis alone. I don’t know how he will fare, and his SA A record doesn’t inspire confidence, but he has earned the opportunity to show his suitability or lack thereof.
I was baffled by Rickelton’s omission from the side in this series to date. He played well against Bangladesh earlier this year, then went on to dominate county cricket with Northants (his series of scores reads: four, 103, 55, 133, 29, 59*, 95 and 68). He must get a fair crack with the Proteas, particularly since he possesses an X factor that could define matches.
I’d keep faith in Kyle Verrynne. He clearly has significant talent but is learning that Test cricket demands technique and temperament competency in equal measure.
Jansen would come in at No 7, offering variation to their bowling attack, and lengthening the batting lineup.
Ryan Vrede’s Proteas XI for the Test series decider