Almost by default, the national selectors may appease their fiercest of critics for the Proteas’ upcoming three-match Test series against Sri Lanka, which starts at Centurion’s SuperSport Park on December 15.
The panel, headed by former Proteas opening batsman Andrew Hudson, have been under the spotlight since the drawn Test series against Australia last month. It was the fourth consecutive home series South Africa have failed to win.
Although there were three changes to the playing XI (Jacques Rudolph, Vernon Philander and Imran Tahir), there has been a clamour for a shake-up of the Test squad, especially for the series against the beleaguered Sri Lankans.
The islanders have lost their last three Test series, and are at loggerheads with their board for non-payment of salaries since the last World Cup.
The consecutive World Cup finalists’ problems could increase today, with Titans express Marchant de Lange expected to receive his first official Proteas call-up. The 21-year-old fast bowler has trained with South Africa before, but is now expected to provide cover for the injured Lonwabo Tsotsobe.
Left-arm swing bowler Tsotsobe is still struggling with a stride strain, and is unlikely to play for the Warriors in this week’s 1-Day Cup final against the Cape Cobras at Newlands, and will be desperately short of gametime. Tsotsobe last played on November 4 – more than a month ago.
“Lopsy is still recovering from his side strain,” Proteas manager-cum-doctor Mohammed Moosajee told the Cape Times yesterday.
“He is in the process of getting better, and will check in for tests on Wednesday when he will be assessed. With a side strain, it is best to bring him along slowly, and to be patient in the recovery process.”
It would not be a surprise, though, if De Lange’s meteoric rise – he has played just 14 first-class games – continued with his progression past Tsotsobe and selection for a Test debut on his home ground, especially if South Africa opt to rattle Sri Lanka with an all-pace attack.
The Tzaneen youngster has impressed all season with the serious gas he has been able to generate, often being timed in excess of 145km/h, and he showed his ability in last month’s tour match against the Australians, where he took 5/56.
Vernon Philander has already proved this summer how a fresh face can invigorate a team, with his 14 wickets in his debut Test series proving a revelation. An attack consisting of Dale Steyn, Philander, Morné Morkel and De Lange would also pose some genuine questions to a Sri Lankan batting line-up that traditionally struggle away from the sub-continent’s docile pitches.
Tsotsobe, however, is not the only Proteas injury concern. Batsman Hashim Amla is facing a race against time to be fit for Centurion. The No 3 has not played since being hit on the forearm in the second Test against Australia at the Wanderers.
It is Amla’s second forearm injury over the course of the past 12 months after he was hit while fielding by Pakistan’s Misbah-ul-Haq.
Although JP Duminy has been the official “reserve” batsman in the Test squad for some time now, Rudolph’s less-than-remarkable return to Test cricket – top-scoring with 30 in four innings at the top of the order – has also raised questions around whether he is the right man to partner captain Graeme Smith.
It is highly likely that the deposed Alviro Petersen could earn a recall after being dropped for the Australia series. The Highveld Lions captain has not sulked after his axing – that could at the time have been described as harsh – and has instead continued to pile on the runs to remind the selectors of his worth.
He scored an aggressive century for SA A in the Australian tour match in Potchefstroom, and also hit 145 not out last week at the same venue in a 1-Day Cup encounter.
The Proteas squad is set to be announced today.
Likely Proteas squad:
Graeme Smith (capt), Jacques Rudolph, Hashim Amla, Jacques Kallis, AB de Villiers, Ashwell Prince, Mark Boucher (wk), Vernon Philander, Dale Steyn, Morné Morkel, Imran Tahir, JP Duminy, Lonwabo Tsotsobe, Alviro Petersen, Marchant de Lange, Paul Harris. - Cape Times