JOHANNESBURG – South Africa’s recent preference for an all-seam attack when playing at the Wanderers, may help them to strengthen their batting for the third Test against India starting at the ground on Wednesday (10am start).
In the last two Tests at the Wanderers; against England and Sri Lanka, the Proteas have started with four frontline seamers; last season that quartet was made up of Vernon Philander, Kagiso Rabada, Duanne Olivier and Wayne Parnell. With respect to the last two, Lungi Ngidi and Morne Morkel, will make for a better and more threatening attack.
In the first two Tests against India, SA utilised a five-man attack, including spinner Keshav Maharaj, but as valuable as the left-arm spinner has been to the Proteas in the last 15 months, there may not be a need for him on what is expected to be a typically lively Wanderers pitch.
By leaving out Maharaj, SA can strengthen their batting which has done okay through the series, although the lack of a hundred by any of the frontline six batsmen will irritate. In addition, Quinton de Kock’s form will be a big concern, and perhaps alleviating him of some pressure by dropping him down a spot to No 7 could liberate the 25-year-old.
De Kock has scored 63 runs in four innings in this series against India and his last innings - in the second dig at Centurion last week - was a horror show of outside edges, before he was eventually out for just 12. Over the course of his career, when asked to bat at No 6 De Kock averages 26.84, while when playing one spot down the order at No 7 he averages 55.53.
With SA coach Ottis Gibson wanting to utilise a more aggressive approach as far as the ball is concerned, and picking four quicks plus a spinner against India, it has put more pressure on De Kock’s batting. For this week, that can change, but with Australia and their strong bowling line-up heading to SA shores in March, the six-batsmen option may require some re-thinking.
There was a blow for the man most likely to have stepped into the starting team in the event of SA playing the extra batsman, with Temba Bavuma ruled out of action for up to four weeks after fracturing his right ring finger while playing for the Cape Cobras in a One-Day Cup match last week.
That puts Theunis de Bruyn in the frame for his first start since the final Test against England in Manchester last August. Another option of course would be to include Andile Phehlukwayo or even Chris Morris, which gives the home team the extra seam bowling all-rounder, although starting a match with five seam bowlers, does seem like overkill and of course it will also mean De Kock stays at No 6.
Although he has been part of the national squad since before the Test against Zimbabwe, De Bruyn has had very little cricket in the last month, playing just one 50-over game for the Knights against the Titans last week, batting for more than an hour and scoring 37.