Test-teaser a chance to savour the Proteas playing at their full potential

2011-11-09 00:00

WITH the T20 and one-day series between Australia and South Africa rapidly concluded, it’s time to turn our attention to the Test series, but sadly not for long.

A series between Test cricket’s fiercest rivals is a tantalising prospect, but with just two matches on the itinerary it seems little more than a teaser. With the number two and four-ranked Test teams both vying for higher rankings and playing for pride, this series deserves more than just the two encounters.

It’s been a long layoff from Test cricket for a number of the senior members in the Proteas side.

Captain Graeme Smith, Jacques Kallis, Mark Boucher and Dale Steyn were last in action during the New Year’s Test match against India.

AB de Villiers has had an equally long break from the five-day format and was forced out of the T20 and one-day series against Australia with a hand injury.

The long break and injuries to key players has not helped with the Proteas preparation, but on paper their Test line-up is impressive.

Jacques Rudolph is an exciting selection. The left-hander, who last played Test cricket in 2006, has been knocking on the door of the South African selectors ever since. He has piled on the runs domestically, for county side Yorkshire and more recently for South Africa A in Zimbabwe. He is an intelligent, classy cricketer who could bat anywhere in the batting order but will most likely open with Graeme Smith.

Hashim Amla, Jacques Kallis and AB de Villiers form a formidable top order. Gary Kirsten will have to chose between Ashwell Prince and JP Duminy to fill his number six batting slot. Both have been much tried, but Kirsten may opt for the younger Duminy and give him yet another chance to cement his place in the Test line-up. Mark Boucher is fit and focused. His supportive role down the order is vital for the Proteas.

Morne Morkel and Dale Steyn , two of the best opening bowlers in world cricket at the moment, pick themselves. It’s the selection of the spinners that’s interesting.

Attacking leg-spinner Imran Tahir, who is set to make his Test debut at Newlands, must surely be the first-choice spinner. The question is whether Kirsten will include the defensive bowling of Paul Harris. Depending on the wicket the use of two spinners could be an option to lighten the bowling load for workhorse Jacques Kallis.

Should Kirsten opt for only one spinner, the inclusion of Lenwabo Tsotsobe could add variety with his left-arm seamers. Tsotsobe is good with the new ball, but he is an inexperienced Test bowler and has yet to show his stamina and ability to come back for a second or third spell.

Vernon Philander is another possibility. He is an accurate seam bowler with a “golden arm”. His presence in the team could take some of the pressure off the attacking fast bowlers and help to contain the Australians.

The abbreviated Test series may not give Kirsten time to try out all his combinations, but he has exciting options available and this is encouraging for South Africa.

Two Test matches against the Aussies may not satisfy Test-hungry fans, but it will be a taste to savour if the Proteas play to their potential.

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