Keegan Petersen of the Dolphins is set to make his Test debut for the Proteas. Photo: Muzi Ntombela/BackpagePix
Keegan Petersen of the Dolphins is set to make his Test debut for the Proteas. Photo: Muzi Ntombela/BackpagePix

’Ideal candidate’ Keegan Petersen set for Proteas Test debut in the Caribbean

By Stuart Hess Time of article published May 29, 2021

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CAPE TOWN - Keegan Petersen is set to make his Proteas debut in the opening Test against the West Indies, in two weeks time, as South Africa look to fill the gap left by Faf du Plessis’ retirement from the Test format.

The 27 year old, born in Paarl, but who’s plied his trade in Bloemfontein and more recently Durban in the last few seasons, has been one of the steadiest batsmen in the domestic game and his likely call up to start for the Proteas, would be entirely justifiable.

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The Proteas’ new Test captain, Dean Elgar said Petersen was the ideal candidate to fill a spot in the batting order, although there may still be some debate about where Petersen does end up batting.

“Without Faf, a guy like Keegan Petersen comes into the mix,” Elgar said on Saturday. The Proteas, who all received Covid-19 vaccinations as part of the Sisonke trial this week, will depart for St Lucia on Monday. “He’s been waiting quite some time, so if he gets selected, its a massive opportunity for him. There’s a lot of room for him to try and make an impact in our batting line-up,” Elgar explained about Petersen.

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South Africa’s batting has been a glaring weakness for the last few seasons, with the retirements of Du Plessis, AB de Villiers and Hashim Amla leaving gaping holes in terms of experience in the side.

All manner of options have been tried with Quinton de Kock shifting up and down the order to try and provide some spark. Elgar confirmed that De Kock would return to no.6 in the order, a spot that suits him better than 4 or 5 where’s been batting lately.

Overall however, the batting needs stability, and Petersen can hopefully provide that. His combined average in the franchise first class competition in the last four seasons is a very healthy 48.54, and he’s made six centuries over that stretch.

ALSO READ: No Proteas return for AB de Villiers, Prenelan Subrayen receives maiden call-up for West Indies tour

The question for Elgar, head coach Mark Boucher and the selectors ahead of the first Test starting at the Daren Sammy Cricket Ground, in Gros Islet, St Lucia on June 10, is: where will Petersen bat?

Du Plessis has been at no.4 since Amla’s retirement, and even dropped into the no.5 slot at times. Petersen has been most effective at no.3 for the Knights and then Dolphins. However, Rassie van der Dussen has batted at no.3 for the Proteas lately, and amidst some poor batting, he’s been among the very few bright spots.

Petersen may have to take the no.4 spot, sandwiched between Van der Dussen and Test vice-captain Temba Bavuma.

Elgar admitted the Proteas aren’t sure what to expect from the pitch in St Lucia. Very superficial data suggests a slow and low surface, putting an emphasis on scoring big first innings runs - something the Proteas have struggled with recently - and getting good returns out of their spinners.

ALSO READ: No Proteas return for AB de Villiers, Prenelan Subrayen receives maiden call-up for West Indies tour

In that respect, Elgar said, he was happy to have so many options at his disposal in the squad. “One thing that Covid has done that’s been good for cricket, is that we have extended squads. You can tick nearly all the boxes when it comes to covering all bases,” said Elgar.

There are four spinners in the Proteas’ squad; Keshav Maharaj, George Linde, Prenelan Subrayen and Tabraiz Shamsi. “We don’t know what the conditions will be, we have to assess those and then adapt accordingly, so having more armoury with regards to spin bowling, is a big positive for us going into this Test series,” said Elgar.

SA Test team for West Indies

Dean Elgar (capt), Temba Bavuma, Quinton de Kock, Sarel Erwee, Beuran Hendricks, George Linde, Keshav Maharaj, Lungi Ngidi, Aiden Markram, Wiaan Mulder, Anrich Nortje, Keegan Peterson, Kagiso Rabada, Rassie van der Dussen, Kyle Verreynne, Tabraiz Shamsi, Lizaad Williams, Prenelan Subrayen, Marco Jansen.

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