How to bring the best out of Duminy

2014-07-19 00:00

CAPE TOWN — Make use of a night-watchman, pushing recognised batsman JP Duminy to number eight in the order!

At least statistically, that tactic — though obviously one governed by circumstance in particular matches — appears to bring the best out of the Proteas’ steadily blossoming little left-hander in Tests. Four times in his 25-match career in the format thus far, the Cape Cobras favourite has taken to the crease as low as number eight due to prior use in the innings of a night-watchman — three times Dale Steyn, once Kyle Abbott — and each time Duminy has produced a healthy dividend for the SA cause.

Pushed deeper into the tail in that slot, he has accumulated 217 runs from the quartet of knocks for only one dismissal, a healthy harvest that culminated with his maiden century (100 not out) on the sub-continent in the ongoing first Test against Sri Lanka at Galle on Thursday.

Although he clearly warrants more regular status a notch or two higher in the order, and was the initially earmarked number seven for this match, Duminy only emphasised once again how, in his slightly altering role as a more active all-rounder, he is becoming a key “shepherd” for the Proteas’ tail-enders — a role once entrusted to the long-serving wicketkeeper Mark Boucher. His methodical, accomplished innings — which saw SA get to the 450-plus position, batting first, that is so often regarded as likely security against defeat — was marked by precious stands of 75 and 66 for the eighth and ninth wickets respectively with Vernon Philander and Morné Morkel.

Duminy’s success as a bumped-down number eight began when he registered 48 not out against England at Headingley in 2012, the series which the Proteas won to advance to No. 1 in the world.

Arriving at 318/6 in SA’s first innings, he helped add another 101 runs to the total, giving it a much more assured final look.

Then in the decisive last Test of that series at Lord’s, when the hosts pushed uncomfortably hard on the last day for an equalising victory, Duminy’s 141-minute second innings vigil for 26 not out in the berth was proved important in delaying England’s fourth-innings drive towards a target they failed by 52 runs to achieve.

A lot more recently, Duminy was a defiant number eight again when the Proteas came so close to saving the crucial third Test against Australia at Newlands earlier this year, having been significantly outplayed for much of it. Then he scored 43 in almost 160 minutes before being caught at leg slip off Mitchell Johnson in the lengthening shadows; it was just beginning to look as though he and Philander were going to work a game-saving miracle.

Helped by now registering two centuries from his last five Test innings, Duminy is edging closer to the 40-mark for Test average, which supposedly shifts batsmen from the ranks of just plain “decent” to very good: he stands at 37,84 from 39 turns at the crease.

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