Proteas

Kuhn finally knocks the door down!

Heino Kuhn (Gallo)
Heino Kuhn (Gallo)

Cape Town - If you knock on the door for long enough, eventually somebody will answer. 

That time has finally come for 33-year-old Heino Kuhn, who on Monday was named in a 16-man Test squad for the upcoming series against England. 

To be fair, it was more a case of Kuhn bashing the door down. 

With Stephen Cook out of form and now out of chances, Kuhn is expected to open the batting for the Proteas alongside Dean Elgar when the first Test gets underway at Lord's on July 8. 

Kuhn has played in seven T20Is for the Proteas between 2009 and 2017 - an average of less than one every year - but it is in the longer format where he can now really stake a claim for an extended run in the national set-up. 

With Test series against Bangladesh and, hopefully, India still to come this year, a good showing in England could see Kuhn solidify his position at the top of the Proteas order. 

In the Sunfoil Series in 2016/17 he scored a modest 527 runs for the Titans at an average of 43.91, but in the 2015/16 edition he topped the run-scoring charts with a staggering 1126 runs at 62.55

In a first class career that has spanned over 12 years and 133 matches, Kuhn averages 44.71 with 23 centuries to his name. The impressive element to those numbers is that Kuhn has spent most of his career performing as a wicketkeeper/batsman. 

With Quinton de Kock very much a Proteas regular behind the stumps, Kuhn will not have to worry about 'keeping this time around. 

There are many who feel that the Affies old-boy should have been given a crack at the highest level ages ago, and it nearly came in 2015 when Proteas selectors were seeking a replacement for a struggling Stiaan van Zyl at the top of the order midway through the home Test series against England.

"I remember vividly when it was an issue of Cook or Kuhn, we opted for Cook," CSA convenor of selectors Linda Zondi told Sport24.

"But a guy like Kuhn continued to play well for his franchise.

"It was part of our plan to make sure we selected him in the SA 'A' side and he continued to make runs, showing his experience."

On what has been a below-par performance from the SA 'A' side on their England tour, Kuhn has stood up with scores of 200* and 105 against Hampshire and the England Lions, respectively, making it impossible to ignore him any longer. 

Cook, meanwhile, has probably played his last Test for the Proteas. 

Even if Kuhn does struggle in England, 22-year-old Aiden Markram appears to be next in line.

"It was one of those tough calls you have to make, but I think it was for the better," Zondi said of dropping Cook.

"We just had to increase that base in terms of that opening spot. We're excited with what Kuhn will bring into the picture."

The message from Zondi is clear: Anybody, of any age, can challenge for Proteas honours. 

"We can't be in a position where we write players off. A young player will always require experience, and an experienced player will always require opportunity," he said.

"A senior player will always share experience. You are never too old to make a contribution."

Fairy-tales aside, a contribution from Kuhn is exactly what the Proteas need. The new ball is always tough in England and if the Proteas are to emerge with a series win to salvage what has been a disappointing tour so far, then Kuhn will have to play his part.  

Follow Sport24 journalist @LloydBurnard on Twitter...

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