AB’S injury easing Proteas’

2011-11-02 00:00

CAPE TOWN — The pegs seem to be starting to fit into the holes as South Africa prepare for the first Test against Australia at Newlands next Wednesday.

All smoke signals from the Proteas camp appear to suggest that staple middle-order batting kingpin AB de Villiers is fighting an uphill battle to be fit for the second encounter at the Wanderers.

Under those circumstances, given the fairly bowler-heavy composition of the 14-man South African squad, the batting line-up for the first Test is pretty obvious, considering there is no way they will enter the Test with wicketkeeper Mark Boucher batting any higher than his trademark No. 7 in the five-day format.

Thus, the top six will look like this: Graeme Smith (capt), Jacques Rudolph, Hashim Amla, Jacques Kallis, Ashwell Prince and JP Duminy.

Prince has a reputation as a slightly more grafting customer than fellow left-hander Duminy and is likely to be assured of No. 5 (a favoured and traditionally successful position for him) if there is some element of consolidation required when he takes guard.

Duminy, however, may well be a better bet to bat one rung lower than No. 4 anchorman Kallis if there is already the luxury of a blossoming score on the board and getting a “crack on” is the greater priority.

Whatever the case, the match may well serve as a shoot-out between the two for who retains a place at the Bullring if De Villiers returns to the mix.

South Africa traditionally take conservative options with greater zeal, rightly or wrongly, so it may not be quite the fait accompli many people think it is for the Proteas to prefer attacking leg-spinner Imran Tahir to the left-arm “strangler” Paul Harris.

My own wish is that Tahir gets a Test debut at a venue suited to his craft, although that ever-determined customer Harris, who knows his limitations and doggedly grapples them, still has a Test future — especially on the subcontinent, where he could be an appropriate, containing foil for someone like Tahir if the Lahore-born leggie does shine as a Test player and conditions warrant the presence of two specialist slow bowlers.

For the looming Newlands Test, I rather like the idea of the Proteas fielding Tahir as a further strike option to Dale Steyn and Morné Morkel, with one of Lonwabo Tsotsobe or Vernon Philander then to be the busily-engaged “stock” seamer, Kallis to help out at times and Duminy to turn a few balls the other way to Tahir if necessary.

Harris has picked up decent hauls at Newlands in the past, especially when the southeaster has been around to give him some drift,.

Counting against him, I feel, was his ineffectiveness as a wicket-taker when the Proteas could not win the last Test they played, at the very same venue against India last season.

The Philander v Tsotsobe poser is a neck-and-neck one. The latter is the Test incumbent and offers much-trumpeted left-arm variety even if not at blistering pace, while the former has been a standout SuperSport Series seamer and would offer the iffy Proteas tail slightly less of a “bunny” look to it if he occupied No. 8 behind Boucher rather than Steyn.

How Philander fares in the current match between SA “A” and the Aussies at Potchefstroom could affect selection, although I have a feeling the wise men are going to do the “continuity” thing and retain faith for the time being in lanky Tsotsobe.

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