Pieter Malan will make his Test debut in the second Test against England at Newlands. Photo: Christiaan Kotze/BackpagePix

CAPE TOWN – Pieter Malan is set to make his Test debut at Newlands on Friday, making him the eighth player to earn a Test cap in South Africa’s last five Tests.

Malan, 30, will take the place of Aiden Markram, who broke the ring finger on his left hand during the first Test at Centurion, and as a result will be out of action for six weeks. The decision to play Malan wasn’t a hard one for head coach Mark Boucher. “He’s in the squad as a replacement for a top order batter. For us to go messing around with the opening position wouldn’t be clever. Pieter Malan has done a lot of good work over a long period of time, he’s got a lot of hundreds, he knows his game very well. It’s also his home ground,” said Boucher. 

While it will be his first Test match, it will also be Malan’s 149th first class game. He has scored over 10 000 first class runs, with 32 hundreds and averages 45.16. Malan has been a rock at the top of the order for the Cape Cobras in recent season, although this summer has been less successful for him in the franchise four-day competition, where his average has dropped to 33 and he’s made just one century in six innings. 

But as with Keegan Petersen, who came into the Proteas squad at the weekend, Malan’s spot is the result of form over a number of seasons, rather than just this week. 

Boucher’s remark about not messing with the batting order is salient one also. South Africa’s batting has been shaky for the last two years changing too much now would not help the confidence of the players. 

One theory doing the rounds at Centurion once it became clear Markram would play no further part in the series, was that Rassie van der Dussen, who made a valuable second innings half-century in the first Test, could go back to opening, thus allowing Temba Bavuma to slot in at 5. 

However, Boucher wasn’t sure about Bavuma’s fitness, citing the player complaining of soreness during a short stint in the field at SuperSport Park. And then there is Van der Dussen’s good performance as well. “If I look at the middle order at the moment, it’s going to be very tough to leave a guy like Rassie out, who played a very important knock in (the first) Test,” said Boucher.

“I understand that Temba has been under pressure in the media, not scoring as many runs as what he wants to. I don’t want to throw him to the wolves. Temba is a very good player and we will continue to work with him in a very specific way, to try and get Temba to be the best player he can be. If the opportunity arises, to give him a shot again, then great.”

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