Batting order takes shape

2011-11-08 00:00

CAPE TOWN — The Proteas’ batting line-up to tackle Australia in the first Test at Newlands from tomorrow appears to have taken shape.

It seems reasonably clear that AB de Villiers, after seeming more likely a few days ago to only be considered for the second Test at the Wanderers after his hand injury, is going to get every chance to confirm his readiness instead for the first encounter.

Yesterday’s Proteas press conference all but cleared up that Ashwell Prince will occupy a middle-order position, at the expense of JP Duminy, with De Villiers coming into the mix if he has no setbacks at nets in the lead-up to the Test.

Prince was the national side’s representative at the briefing, and when asked whether he had been told he would turn out, he replied, “They haven’t announced the final eleven yet, but I expect to play.”

Significantly, he also went into some detail about the situation of attacking kingpin De Villiers.

“He’d have liked a bit more time at the crease [on Sunday for the Titans], but I’m sure he’ll be fine. He’s just got to make the best of today and tomorrow with his preparation, but he’s a world-class batsman.

“Watching him in the nets today, he didn’t seem to have lost anything — the timing is there. That first half-hour at the crease [against the Aussies] will be tough, and crucial for him to settle himself down.”

It seems that the Proteas will go in with a top six made of captain Graeme Smith, Jacques Rudolph, Hashim Amla, Jacques Kallis, De Villiers and Prince, in that order.

Prince boasts a first-innings knock of 150 in a winning cause the last time South Africa played the Aussies at the ground in a dead-rubber Test three seasons back — Australia had already gone 2-0 up to secure the series — in the stop-gap role of opening batsman.

“At the time we had [disruption] in the team … Graeme got injured and unfortunately Neil McKenzie went through a bad patch and we ended up with two new opening batsmen [Prince and debutant Imraan Khan].

“But this [middle order] is where I’ve batted all my life and much more the role I’m accustomed to. I’m also much more comfortable with it.”

The 34-year-old left-hander admitted that it has been tough to stomach occasionally being a yo-yo man in the Test side, or subjected to unfamiliar responsibilities.

“Sometimes it’s a bit disappointing that you always have to look over your shoulder. But I feel I’ve done enough in the past and my form coming into the Test is good, so I feel confident.”

Asked about what he expects of the Newlands pitch, Prince said, “It looks a little bit soft at the moment; hopefully it can continue to get some good sun on it. The forecast ahead is a bit dodgy, though.”

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