With squad positions 12, 13, 14 and 15 for next year’s World Cup up for grabs, South Africa’s three-match One-Day International series against Zimbabwe offers an important opportunity for those on the fringes of selection for the 50-over showpiece.
As mentioned by Russell Domingo last week, South Africa’s three frontline pace bowlers – Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel and Vernon Philander – will all be rested for the short series. That move also allows Domingo and skipper AB de Villiers a closer look at the likes of Kyle Abbott, Wayne Parnell and Aaron Phangiso, who have all been part of the 15-man squads in the last 12 months.
Domingo and De Villiers want a more settled unit following a period of experimenting when Gary Kirsten was at the helm.
The series – which starts in Bulawayo on August 17 – is also an important one for Rilee Rossouw, the determined left-hand batsman from Bloemfontein who has been bashing on the Proteas’ door for most of the past five years.
The 24-year-old has been one of the most consistent run-scorers on the domestic scene – he finished in the top 10 leading scorers in all three formats last summer – and with Jacques Kallis no longer available as an option in the top order, Rossouw has a chance to stake a claim for a spot as a back-up batsman for the World Cup.
His recent form for the South Africa A team in a quadrangular series Down Under did his chances no harm and, after scoring 332 runs in six matches at an average of 55.33 (including a century and two fifties), he carries some very good form into the Zimbabwe series.
Besides Abbott, Parnell and Phangiso, Beuran Hendricks and Marchant de Lange also return to the national set-up. The pair had contrasting returns for the SA A team in Australia – De Lange, who last represented the national team in New Zealand in 2012, claimed 13 wickets in five matches while Hendricks, who has played five T20 Internationals, picked up just three wickets at an average of 81.66.
Mthokozisi Shezi, who was the SA A team’s second highest wicket-taker in Australia with 11, was a surprise inclusion. While he is carrying good form after picking up 6/42 against the Australian National Performance Squad in the SA A side’s last game, it would come as a major surprise were the 26-year-old left-arm seamer from KwaZulu-Natal to get any game time in such a short series. Shezi, who played just five domestic one-day matches in the last three seasons for the Dolphins, moved to the Cape Cobras at the end of last season.
Kagiso Rabada, the 19-year-old fast bowler and one of the stars of the SA under-19 team’s World Cup triumph, will travel in a non-playing capacity.
South Africa will face Zimbabwe in a one-off Test starting in Harare on Saturday. That will be followed by the three-match ODI series before a triangular one-day series, also featuring Australia, takes place at the end of the month.