New-look Proteas batting line-up a worry

Dean Elgar (Getty)
Dean Elgar (Getty)

Cape Town - Just seven months ago, South African cricket was experiencing the ultimate high. 

The Proteas had beaten Australia in a three-match Test series away from home that followed a 5-0 ODI thrashing of the same opposition on home soil. 

They were thriving under the new leadership of Faf du Plessis while coach Russell Domingo, who has had his fair share of critics over the last four years, was suddenly being praised from all corners. 

A failed ICC Champions Trophy and a couple of limited overs series losses later, and the Proteas now find themselves going into a crucial four-match Test series against England in a very different space and somewhat on the ropes. 

The coach is on the verge of being sacked, there is a new captain and there will also be a brand new opening batting pair. 

As able a replacement as Dean Elgar is, this is hardly the best time for the Proteas to be going into battle with a new leader. 

The importance of this series is massive in South Africa's endeavors to get back to the top of the pile in Test cricket.

While England also have a new captain in Joe Root, it isn't quite the same thing. England have been preparing Root for this role for a couple of years already and this is merely the next step in what will have been a very comprehensive succession plan. 

In Elgar's case, he could never have expected to be leading his side out at the 'Home of Cricket' on Thursday. 

The series is also obviously equally important to Domingo, who has now voiced his desire to stay on as national coach.

Regardless of what happened in the Champions Trophy, it would be a bold move to sack a coach who has orchestrated away Test series wins over Australia and England in the space of eight months.

If Domingo is to stay on, then one feels that only a series win can save him. 

The concern, though, is that there is too much of the untested about this Proteas team.

When going into a series of this magnitude, having a settled line-up is first prize.  

The Proteas side on Thursday is likely to look something like this:

Elgar (captain), Kuhn, Amla, Duminy, Bavuma, De Bruyn, De Kock, Philander, Maharaj, Rabada, Morkel. 

It is a side that certainly has a lot of quality, but there is something about that batting order that leaves a feeling of unease. 

Heino Kuhn has been seriously good for a long time, but he has never played Test cricket before and even he can't know how he will adapt to opening the batting at Lord's on debut. 

Hashim Amla is obviously class, and his role in this series should not be understated.  

But then at 4, 5 and 6 there is a sense of instability. 

Just about everybody barring the selectors seems to have run out of patience with JP Duminy, Temba Bavuma is set to be given more responsibility than normal with a move up the batting order while Theunis de Bruyn will be playing in just his second Test. 

It's not that the quality isn't there, it's just that we've never seen this line-up play Test cricket together before. 

With Du Plessis out, it would have been fantastic to rely on a guy like AB de Villiers to step up and lead from both a captaincy and batting perspective. Unfortunately, relying on AB at the moment is not something that we can do. 

The question is, are there enough guys in the top order who we can back to score big hundreds? 

As it stands, only Elgar and Amla have the proven ability to do that regularly.

Follow Sport24 journalist @LloydBurnard on Twitter...

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