Cape Town – South Africa should confidently feel able to field all three of their new faces immediately when they play Ireland in a once-off ODI at Benoni’s Willowmoore Park on Sunday week (September 25).
It is not particularly common for an international team to blood that many first-timers at once, but given that the Proteas are playing on home turf an Irish outfit ranked 12th on the global ladder – even behind Afghanistan – such a move seems both safe and potentially educative.
If that happens, the already Test-capped Temba Bavuma, as well as complete international novices Andile Phehlukwayo and Dwaine Pretorius, will be part of a new-look combo and sample ODI activity for the first time.
Neither of Bavuma or Pretorius stay in plans, among a more extended and seasoned squad, for the five-match home series against Australia shortly afterwards, so there seems little point in simply using them as “nets” players for a few days and then releasing them – the challenge of the minnows shapes up as a perfect opportunity to assess their worth for future purposes.
If anything, lower-order all-rounder Phehlukwayo’s debut could be slightly delayed, as he does remain a member of the 16-strong party to then face the Aussies, though earning a baptism against Ireland – especially if he grabs it with both hands – could also help ease his passage into battle against the considerably stiffer foes.
The 13-man group named for the Benoni fixture recently, for all its experimental feel, still boasts a deft enough balance between youth and experience, despite long-time ODI heavyweights like Hashim Amla, Imran Tahir and Dale Steyn sitting out the “limb-loosener”.
There are still juggernaut batsmen available in the shape of returning captain AB de Villiers, Quinton de Kock, Faf du Plessis and JP Duminy; I would anticipate all of them playing as insurance against any unlikely upset.
Also almost guaranteed to tackle the Irish, given that Tahir and Tabraiz Shamsi only come into the picture against Australia, is left-arm spinner Aaron Phangiso, the only SA slow-bowling specialist for Willowmoore Park despite Duminy’s off-spin also being an option.
So that leaves the question, although on-day match conditions are also bound to come into consideration, of which two of the 13 will miss out – my money at this long-range point would probably be placed on Wayne Parnell and David Miller, both of whose strengths and weaknesses are already well-known to the Proteas brains trust over a period of several years.
Parnell might become odd-man-out (although his left-arm variety is to be factored in) in a veritable sea of bowling all-rounders, meaning that SA field all of Pretorius, Phehlukwayo and Chris Morris in those capacities.
Here is a stab, admittedly well in advance, at a possible Proteas XI against Ireland: Quinton de Kock, Temba Bavuma (there is reported keenness to gauge the pint-sized competitor’s abilities up front), Faf du Plessis, AB de Villiers (capt), JP Duminy, Farhaan Behardien, Dwaine Pretorius, Chris Morris, Andile Phehlukwayo, Kagiso Rabada, Aaron Phangiso.
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