Dwaine Pretorius could benefit from the injury to Dale Steyn. Photo: Action Images via Reuters

Dale Steyn’s injury has opened up a spot in the Proteas starting XI for Thursday’s World Cup opener against England at The Oval.

The three main contenders are Chris Morris, Dwaine Pretorius and Tabraiz Shamsi – so, who should it be?

Chris Morris

The tall Titans all-rounder is many people’s favourite, primarily because he is seen as someone with ‘X-factor’ who can win the game for South Africa with a big hit or sharp delivery.

But how many times has he done it at ODI level? Yes, he can smash a long ball at the end of an innings, but he is unlikely to bat the Proteas out of trouble if they had to find themselves at 150/6.

The major problem with Morris is his inconsistent bowling. He has all the attributes to be a quality paceman – height, able to clock over 140km/h and can hit the seam – but his downfall is often his length.

The 32-year-old Morris just bowls too short too often, which is evidenced in his high economy rate of 5.61 and a bowling average of 40.42 in 34 ODIs.

Dwaine Pretorius

The Lions star has been excellent for his franchise and in the Mzansi Super League for the victorious Jozi Stars. Those performances catapulted him into the Proteas set-up again.

He didn’t get much chance to bat in recent ODIs, although he scored 31 off 26 balls against Sri Lanka in Durban in March, and then slammed 77 not out off just 42 balls in a T20 International against the same opponents in Johannesburg.

Pretorius was a consistent performer with the ball throughout last season, starting with the series against Australia Down Under, going for under five runs per over in four out of seven games with his fast-medium bowling.

Tabraiz Shamsi

The left-arm wrist-spinner may be seen in some quarters as the ‘gamble’ of the three options, but a lot could depend on the type of pitch at The Oval.

Only once has the temperature reached 24 degrees Celcius in London over the last 10 days, which means that it hasn’t been hot and dry.

So, while Shamsi could be a mystery figure for the English batsmen, he might not get assistance from the wicket against a powerful batting line-up.

His stats in 15 ODIs don’t make for great reading either – 19 wickets at 35.89, at 5.30 runs per over.

Rest of the Team

Aiden Markram was in a rich vein of form for Hampshire over the last month, and would provide another top-order option against what could be fast-bowler friendly conditions on Thursday.

He has also shown his versatility in the middle-order for the Titans in domestic cricket, but can he cash in on those classy starts to push David Miller out?

Verdict

Dwaine Pretorius presents the best percentage option compared to Morris and Shamsi.

Miller had an IPL to forget, but he has been solid for the Proteas during the last international season. The fact that he is the back-up wicket-keeper helps his cause as well.

My Proteas XI

Quinton de Kock, Hashim Amla, Faf du Plessis (captain), Rassie van der Dussen, David Miller, JP Duminy, Dwaine Pretorius, Andile Phehlukwayo, Kagiso Rabada, Imran Tahir, Lungi Ngidi.

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