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THE Proteas will need to regroup quickly in the aftermath of Mark Boucher’s unexpected retirement and departure from England over the past couple of days.
Besides the trauma of watching their long-time teammate and stalwart left sprawled across the turf with blood gushing from his left eye on Monday, and the prospect of no longer having their “iron man” in the trenches with them, the Proteas have further injuries hampering their build-up to the first Test against England beginning next Thursday.
Opening batsman Alviro Petersen played no part in the two-day warm-up game against Somerset that ended in a draw on Tuesday as he went for an MRI scan due to a troublesome foot. South Africa’s media manager, Lerato Malekutu, said yesterday from Canterbury: “Alviro went for a scan and the results show a minor joint sprain but he will push on to play this weekend.”
Petersen is likely to play in the final warm-up match against Kent, starting tomorrow, where he will further assessed.
Although Jacques Rudolph opened the batting alongside Test captain Graeme Smith at Taunton, and is a regular and prolific opener for the Titans at franchise level, the loss of Petersen would further disrupt a batting line-up that will already be altered from the Proteas’ last Test outing, which was against New Zealand back in March.
Stand-in batsman JP Duminy, who scored a century along with Petersen in that Wellington Test when he deputised for an injured Jacques Kallis, will now likely retain his place due to Boucher’s absence. Although Cricket South Africa communications manager Altaaf Kazi confirmed that Thami Tsolekile will replace Boucher in the touring party, Proteas limited-overs captain AB de Villiers will do duty behind the stumps at The Oval.
But South Africa’s injury concerns are not only confined to their batting department. Rookie speedster Marchant de Lange, another who played at the Basin Reserve due to Kallis’s absence, is still hampered by the back injury sustained in the Indian Premier League while playing for the Kolkata Knight Riders.
“Marchant is struggling with his back strain. He had an MRI scan back in South Africa and has not responded to treatment, and will have a further scan today. Only then will we know the outcome of his results and make the necessary calls,” Proteas manager and doctor Mohammed Moosajee said at Newlands yesterday.
Although no decision has been made on either of these players as yet, the most likely replacements would be Rory Kleinveldt of the Cape Cobras in the seam bowling department for De Lange, while Dean Elgar or Faf du Plessis could be called up should Petersen not recover fully. Elgar and Du Plessis were both impressive in the recent series against Sri Lanka A in Durban.
Moosajee, who flew back from the United Kingdom to accompany Boucher home, also wished to convey a message that the Proteas are still very much focused on achieving the distinction of beating England in successive away series, and in turn claiming the No1 Test ranking.
“We’ll have to wait and see (if Boucher’s retirement will have a galvanizing effect on the team). I’d like to think so,” Moosajee quipped. “But I do know the message Mark sent was one that he would really like nothing more than to see the boys beat England on home soil.”