No 3 'great spot' for Duminy

JP Duminy (Gallo)
JP Duminy (Gallo)
Cape Town – JP Duminy will play his 100th one-day international for South Africa when they tackle Sri Lanka in the first of five contests in Colombo on Saturday (11:00 SA time) ... and probably with a new challenge awaiting him.

It seems he is to get a run in the No 3 position, a situation only boosted by his success there in Wednesday’s warm-up encounter with a Sri Lankan Board President’s XI, where the Proteas had posted a tidy 271 for six from their 50 overs at the time of writing.

In a slightly unexpected move – although it had already been publicly indicated that captain AB de Villiers was going to return to his favoured No 4 berth – Duminy took to the crease at first wicket down, and rattled up a sprightly 92 off 100 balls.

So there is every likelihood the move will be repeated when the diminutive 29-year-old plays his personal landmark game on Saturday, particularly as national selection chief Andrew Hudson told Sport24 he feels No 3 is potentially a “great position” for Duminy.

Previously, Duminy has mostly been employed in the middle of the order, around No 5 or 6, and regarded as one of the team’s designated finishers in the ODI format.

But now he is being empowered to get into the action much closer to the front, and if the line-up for the warm-up is any yardstick – as it probably should be? – then the Proteas plan a revamped top six in the following order at least initially against the Lankans: Hashim Amla, Alviro Petersen, Duminy, De Villiers, Faf du Plessis and David Miller.

 That spells bad news for the time being, it seems, for the enigmatic left-hander Colin Ingram, who had another patchy tournament recently when South Africa were eliminated by England at the semi-final phase of the ICC Champions Trophy.

Ingram was asked to open the innings then and did not manage to set the world alight in the unfamiliar role, although he batted beautifully in notching 73 in the thrilling Duckworth/Lewis tie against West Indies in Cardiff.

Hudson said the restoration of Petersen, Graeme Smith’s opening partner at Test level, upfront was designed to restore “a bit of a solid look” to that alliance, where only Amla at ODI level has shown the necessary consistency in recent times.

All of the top five batsmen in the warm-up fixture had useful turns at the crease, and although the hard-hitting Miller was dismissed for two at No 6, his exit came during the end-of-knock slog.

Along with many Proteas supporters, hungry to see the country add limited-overs mastery to their current No 1 status in the Test arena, Hudson’s panel are pinning their hopes on a competitive showing from the troops in Sri Lanka, where many previous Proteas sides have come a cropper.

South Africa are currently ranked fourth and the Lankans fifth in ODIs.

Yet a rare triumph on the Spice Island would be a pleasing result in those conditions, especially bearing in mind that when Sri Lanka last toured our shores two summers back, they ran the hosts close in a 3-2 ODI series outcome.

Hudson admitted that some critics might view the SA squad picked for the Sri Lankan assignment as “fairly conservative” considering the hiccups experienced in recent series or tournaments, but that the players should “go and do the business” following the overwhelming vote of confidence in current resources.

“We have sent a message ‘we think you are good enough’,” Hudson said.

“There is certainly a wish for greater consistency, but if we become inconsistent in selection as well, then it doesn’t necessarily transmit a great message to the squad.

“You may see the odd change to the XI itself if players aren’t performing (in Sri Lanka), but at the same time we believe we have identified roughly the correct 15 to 18 players to do a job for us in the near-term.”

The Duminy “experiment” at first drop will certainly be tracked with interest – the left-hander did not have the happiest of times at the Champions Trophy, but he was also probably still finding his feet again after his long-term injury, and his quality can hardly be questioned.

The Cape Cobras favourite has operated in the position just four times before, twice against minnows Zimbabwe – he registered his second-highest ODI score of 129 at Benoni from there in 2010 – and a further two occasions against England away a year ago, when he scored 14 and 18.

*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing

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