You’re hitting Centurion or the Wanderers. Who is the last South African bowler you want to rush to you, new ball in hand, old chaos in mind? Kagiso Rabada, of course. Sri Lanka will therefore be relieved that Rabada has not recovered from a groin injury in time to be named to the team to play the Trials on those grounds from 26 December.
Not so fast. Lungi Ngidi has been chosen. Like Anrich Nortje. Hitting two of the fastest pitches in cricket will be easier for the Lankans than they bargained for. But not by much. The home team’s other pacing options – Beuran Hendricks, Wiaan Mulder and the outspoken Glenton Stuurman – aren’t nearly as threatening. That said, they do bring other attributes. Hendricks’ left arm, for example. And Stuurman’s ability to move the ball both ways.
South Africa’s batting has a more familiar look, with Pieter Malan and Zubayr Hamza the only casualties in that department from the team that finished the series against England in January. That was Faf du Plessis’s swan song as captain. He remains in the mix, but contrary to previous indications, Quinton de Kock will lead the team until the end of the season, or as long as the candidates for the job proper, Aiden Markram, Dean Elgar, Temba Bavuma, Rassie van der Dussen and Keshav Maharaj, stake your claims.
Another rookie, Kyle Verreynne, could relieve the burdened De Kock of his goalkeeping duties. Another bloodless player on the team, Sarel Erwee, scored 199 in the first round of first-class matches last month. Markram is the leading scorer of runs in that competition, thanks to the centuries in his last three innings. Erwee is just 47 runs behind him, albeit one more inning.
All-rounder Wiaan Mulder, a former South African U19 captain and great talent who has had to recover from too many injuries for someone turning 23 in February, has also settled the go-ahead after scoring a century and 91 in five innings of competition. first class.
Keshav Maharaj is the only spinner of the 15, especially because of the places involved. Only in Centurion and the Wanderers do the captains of South Africa contemplate unleashing attacks without limits. That brings us to Sri Lanka’s last series of tests in the country, in February 2019.
They came in having won just one of their previous 13 events in South Africa, but the narrative was rewritten when they prevailed through one window at Kingsmead and eight tickets at St George’s Park. That made them the first Asian team to claim a test series here. Again, the clue is in the places.
Durban and Port Elizabeth are home to the slowest and most Asian surfaces in South Africa. Kingsmead is the scene of Sri Lanka’s only other victory in the country, by 208 races in December 2011, when Rangana Herath won 11/128, and they tied their other round there. Sensibly, they had played at St George’s Park only once before, in December 2016 when they were eliminated by 205 and 281 and South Africa won by 206 runs. So the decision to put the Lankans in Durban and Port Elizabeth last year was made out of ignorance or arrogance.
Therefore, they can expect to be taken more seriously than ever this time. Not only will South Africa have a point to prove, they will not have played test cricket for 11 months when the Centurion match begins, and they will do so with a new captain and in the new world of Covid cricket. So there are many reasons for South Africans to show they can do this, especially after England cut off their white ball tour out of fear of the virus.
Du Plessis, Bavuma, De Kock, Elgar, Maharaj, Markram and Mulder were on the South African team selected for the latest Sri Lankan test series here. So were Hashim Amla, Theunis de Bruyn, Duanne Olivier, Vernon Philander, Rabada, Dale Steyn and Hamza, who for various reasons do not exist at this time.
Much has changed since last February. But it’s still not much fun hitting for Centurion or Wanderers when some of South Africa’s best bowlers are running at you.
South Africa Test Team: Quinton de Kock (captain), Temba Bavuma, Aiden Markram, Faf du Plessis, Beuran Hendricks, Dean Elgar, Keshav Maharaj, Lungi Ngidi, Rassie van der Dussen, Sarel Erwee, Anrich Nortje, Glenton Stuurman, Wiaan Mulder, Keegan Petersen, Kyle Verreynne.