Proteas hope to get World Test Championship campaign back on track

Tristan Stubbs will take the Proteas forward as the No 3 batsman on their coming tour of the West Indies. | BackpagePix

Tristan Stubbs will take the Proteas forward as the No 3 batsman on their coming tour of the West Indies. | BackpagePix

Published Jul 9, 2024


Ongama Gcwabe

IN the context of the World Test Championship (WTC), South Africa are sitting in seventh place in a table of nine teams.

Looking back to how well coach Shukri Conrad’s Test side started this cycle last summer, beating India convincingly at SuperSport Park in the Boxing Day Test, seventh place seems too low to somehow make a comeback for a spot in the final in 2025.

Understandably, the 2-0 series whitewash of the makeshift Proteas squad at the hands of the Kiwis earlier this year has played a hand in South Africa recording only one victory in the four Tests they have played in this cycle so far.

However, it is not all doom and gloom for the Proteas as they have eight more Test matches to propel themselves to the top two spots in the table to qualify for the final.

Their first task will be next month’s trip to the Caribbean to play the West Indies in two Tests in Guyana (August 7-11) and Trinidad and Tobago (August15-19).

South Africa will also tour Bangladesh for two more Tests in October before they welcome Sri Lanka and Pakistan over the summer to conclude their cycle of fixtures.

“We’ve got eight Test matches left in this cycle. In order to give yourself a good crack at it you need to win at least seven. That’s part of the end goal,” Conrad said yesterday.

“We do know that every Test series is going to be a challenging one. The West Indies are a different kettle of fish in their own country but when we play to our full potential we can get the right results there.

“We’re still very much in the mix there (in the WTC) but we’re going to have to play good cricket over the next few months starting with the West Indies.”

In an attempt to steer the ship up the WTC table, Conrad has made some big calls, adding to his reputation as the type of boss who is not afraid to make the tough calls he deems necessary.

From the moment he took over, when he stripped Dean Elgar of the captaincy, then dropped esteemed fast bowler Lungi Ngidi for newcomer in Gerald Coetzee, or when he batted Tristan Stubbs at No 3 on debut against Test powerhouse India, Conrad has built quite the reputation for himself.

Conrad named a 16-man squad for the two-match series against the West Indies yesterday.

He has made three changes to the full-strength team that played India last summer, as he left out Keegan Peterson and Zubayr Hamza, while opting to “rest” all-rounder Marco Jansen.

Matthew Breetzke has received his maiden Test call-up, while Ryan Rickelton, Dane Piedt and Dane Paterson have been recalled to the Test squad.

“Given the hectic schedules, and not necessarily for South Africa – you take someone like Marco, who would have had two months at an IPL (and gone) straight to a World Cup, straight into an MLC – the plan was always for different guys to be getting breaks at different times,” Conrad said.

“So this is Marco’s time where we felt we can do some really good work with him from a rehab and conditioning point of view, and if there’s some technical work that needs to happen.”

Jansen will also miss the October Tests in Bangladesh and “be ready for Sri Lanka and Pakistan”, Conrad said. “And then another quick will have the Bangladesh series off and be ready for Sri Lanka and Pakistan.”

Stubbs will continue to bat at No 3 for South Africa for the foreseeable future as Conrad looks to give the technically sound youngster an extended run in the Test side and build for the future.

Tony de Zorzi and Aiden Markram will open the batting for South Africa, captain Temba Bavuma will return to his No 4 position and David Bedingham will be entrusted with the No 5 position in the batting order.

South Africa’s Test Squad for West Indies Tour:

Temba Bavuma (capt), David Bedingham, Matthew Breetzke, Nandre Burger, Gerald Coetzee, Tony de Zorzi, Keshav Maharaj, Aiden Markram, Wiaan Mulder, Lungi Ngidi, Dane Paterson, Dane Piedt, Kagiso Rabada, Tristan Stubbs, Ryan Rickelton, Kyle Verreynne.