Dilemma for Quinton De Kock, the test captain
Quinton De Kock was recently named as the test captain for the 2020/21 season. This means that he will be the captain for a minimum of seven test matches. South Africa are due to host Sri Lanka for two tests during the festive period. They then travel to Pakistan to play a further two tests, before hosting Australia at home for 3 games.
But, South Africa haven’t won a test series since beating Pakistan at home in the 2018/19 season. Their test side has been hampered with injuries, retirements to key players and unfulfilled talent. The current ICC Test Championship is inevitably over for South Africa but they would love to challenge during it’s next cycle.
So, what are the issues that Quinton De Kock faces as the test captain and how can he solve them?
A stable opening partnership
Dean Elgar. Aiden Markram. Pieter Malan. Three opening batsman. Malan hasn’t been called up yet but with the Covid-19 protocols and players testing positive, he very well might.
Aiden Markram and Dean Elgar are the tried and tested opening partnership. However, Markram has proved to be susceptible to the moving ball more than Elgar. There are some discussions as to whether he would be a much better fit batting at number 3 or number 4. This is because he has the game to score big but he often falls at the first hurdle. The ball moves less lower down the order and so it should suit his attacking style.
Dean Elgar is a guarantee at the top of the order, due to his experience and having scored runs in all conditions.
The question is, however, whether Pieter Malan is amongst the best South African batsmen in the country?
Quality number three
Raynard Van Tonder and Zubayr Hamza are the two options that South Africa have to bat at number three. Both have excellent first class records and should be given a long enough run in the side. Hamza has not been called up for the Sri Lanka series but it is unlikely that he will be on the fringes for long.
Van Tonder has played 33 first class games and scored 2593 runs at a batting average of just under 50. A highest score of 250 shows that he has the capability to to win games single-handedly.
Zubayr Hamza is more experienced. He has played 68 first class games and averages 45, having scored 4500 runs. His highest score of 202 is also impressive.
Either could fill the number 3 role very well and post the retirement of Faf Du Plessis, both may find themselves in the side as the key batsmen at numbers 3 and 4.
Since Jacques Kallis retired, South Africa have struggled with batting all-rounders. JP Duminy filled the void for a period of time between 2016 and 2017. Vernon Philander was excellent as the bowling all-rounder, batting at number 8. Now that he has retired, South Africa look bereft of all-round options more than ever.
George Linde had a great T20 series against England and made an impressive test debut in India. However, the strong presence of Keshav Maharaj means that he is unlikely to get a look in anytime soon. Dwaine Pretorius is the obvious solution – a seam bowling all-rounder who is a capable batsman. He was excellent vs England at Supersport park and should get opportunities.
Outside options to consider include the mega-talented Wiaan Mulder. Still raw but he has all the goods to bat in the top 7 and also be a solid fifth bowling option. Mulder could potentially be the long-term solution for South Africa but he needs to be developed cleverly.
Migael Pretorius has also been called up. It will be interesting to see what Quinton De Kock, the test captain decides to go with.
Third seam bowling option
Kagiso Rabada, Anrich Nortje and Lungi Ngidi make up a fiery bowling attack. However, the issue lies in the fact that all have similar strengths. This could result in a lack of variety. Vernon Philander was vital in providing this difference.
As a result, South Africa may be tempted to try either of Glenton Stuurman or Beuran Hendricks.
Stuurman has impressed in domestic cricket and deserves his call-up. Hendricks took 5 wickets against England but was far too expensive in both innings of his debut. The issue is that he has been expensive with the ball in limited-overs as well and therefore it is hard to say that he won’t be put under pressure in test match cricket. Nevertheless, he should be persisted with, at least while Kagiso Rabada is out.
Ideally, Quinton De Kock, the test captain would like to try out Stuurman and give Hendricks a longer run to see how they perform in this format. Especially in the absence of Kagiso Rabada vs Sri Lanka, one of those two firing could strengthen the depth of the squad and improve the variety of the attack.
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