Shukri Conrad’s Proteas bowling dilemma: To spin or not to spin?

Proteas spinner Dane Piedt can bfring much-needed experience to their cause in New Zealand. Picture: Ryan Wilkisky / BackpagePix

Proteas spinner Dane Piedt can bfring much-needed experience to their cause in New Zealand. Picture: Ryan Wilkisky / BackpagePix

Published Feb 2, 2024


After scrambling to put a together a squad for the New Zealand Test tour due to the majority of South Africa’s contracted players being involved in the SA20, coach Shukri Conrad now faces a major dilemma in how his Proteas’ starting XI is going to shape up at the Bay Oval in Mount Maunganui on Sunday.

The Proteas have yet to play a Test in the coastal town of Tauranga on the North Island, with only England (twice), Pakistan and Bangladesh having visited there previously.

Conrad is therefore hoping to assess the conditions during the two training sessions scheduled in the build-up before announcing his starting XI.

The Test coach, unlike former captain Dean Elgar, is a firm favourite of announcing his team ahead of time, but he may have to wait until the toss this time around.

The Proteas batting unit seems to be settled, with new captain Neil Brand and Eddie Moore set to open the batting, followed by Raynard van Tonder, Zubayr Hamza, David Bedingham, Keegan Petersen and wicketkeeper Clyde Fortuin.

It is unlikely that Khaya Zondo, who is one of the more experienced international players in the squad with five Test caps, will be called upon in the first match.

Conrad’s dilemma relates more to the composition of the bowling line-up, particularly whether to choose a frontline spinner or gamble on skipper Brand’s part-time left-arm spin.

Dane Piedt is the specialist tweaker in the squad, and the right-arm off-spinner will certainly not only add quality to the attack, but a much-needed hard edge to the line-up as he is one of the most competitive cricketers on the circuit.

Duanne Olivier and Dane Paterson will most likely share the new ball, particularly after the latter claimed an impressive four-wicket haul in the warm-up match against a New Zealand XI in Lincoln.

The third seamer’s spot remains up for grabs, though, with Conrad having to decide between Mihlali Mpongwana, Ruan de Swardt and Tshepo Moreki.

Moreki is potentially the most penetrative with the ball, but has lost some of his zip since moving from Western Province to the Lions at the beginning of the current season.

Mpongwana and De Swardt certainly offer more with the bat, particularly Western Province all-rounder Mpongwana, who showed not only his ability with the bat, but also his temperament in the recent One-Day Cup final at Newlands when he struck a century under immense pressure.