Colombo - South African are unlikely to make any changes for the second Test against Sri Lanka on Thursday.
But that call will throw up the question of whether AB de Villiers has a long-term future as wicketkeeper in the five-day format.
De Villiers, who has had the keeper’s gloves in Test cricket since Mark Boucher was injured in 2012, handed the duties to Quinton de Kock for the first Test in Galle, due to a hamstring strain. De Kock took his chance, making runs and generally being tidy behind the stumps, and De Villiers said on Tuesday the status quo would remain for the second and final Test.
“I didn’t keep in the last game because of the hammy issue, but that has healed now. But my back has always been an issue, and with only two days of preparation, and the fact that I haven’t kept in about six or seven months, it’s probably a bit of both that will keep me out of (keeping) this series,” De Villiers explained.
It is not the first time that he has passed on the keeping responsibilities to De Kock while in Sri Lanka. Last year, he did the same in the ODI series, and his worth in the field was immediately apparent then, as it is now. In the Galle Test which ended on Sunday, he pouched a pair of stunning reflex catches, adding much to a fielding unit that is playing a vital part in keeping the pressure on the opposition.
“I love being on the field. Whatever I do, I do it with a lot of passion. I love playing the game. So I do enjoy fielding. It’s tough at slip. The ball doesn’t come to you very often. So, from that perspective I enjoy keeping more - you’re in the game the whole time. But it’s nice to pull off something special every now and then in the field, to keep the intensity and the energy going.”
While the dynamics for this week’s team look set, De Villiers admitted that the role of the keeper would have to be addressed for the future.
“Long-term, I still look at myself as a wicketkeeper-batsman,” De Villiers explained, adding that he was open to continuing in that role.
“The balance of the team was not affected when Quinny came in at six or seven because we also have Vern (Philander) as the all-rounder (at eight). Whoever takes the gloves and bats at seven or six, as long as it’s the best guy for the job, I’m happy. I’m still willing to take the gloves for the boys. I just have to come in prepared into a series without any niggles.”
It is an interesting dynamic, but also one that means that South Africa will not consider the option of selecting two spinners at the Sinhalese Sports Club. The pitch that they will play on already looks as flat as Galle - if not flatter - and the selection panel must have considered handing Dane Piedt his debut.
His control and nagging nature would have come in handy, and coach Russell Domingo and skipper Hashim Amla took a long, hard look at the conditions, before chatting away at length after Amla’s net session.
It is unusual to change a winning team, and South Africa must feel that Imran Tahir deserves at least another chance, in these conditions. The leggie missed Tuesday’s optional training session, but he was expected to train with the rest of the team on Wednesday.
Piedt, meanwhile, has been an enthusiastic participant at nets, much like Wayne Parnell, Kyle Abbott and Stiaan van Zyl. It’s not easy to break into a winning team, and it certainly isn’t any easier to try and crack the nod in a team that is on the brink of being No 1 in the world again.
But, just as JP Duminy, Faf du Plessis, Dean Elgar and now Quinton de Kock will attest, you’d better be ready when the opportunity finally presents itself.