Piedt timing charge for ICC Test Champs?

Dane Piedt (Gallo Images)
Dane Piedt (Gallo Images)

Cape Town - At least initially, Dane Piedt stays in the cold as South Africa begin their home Test summer with the Boxing Day clash against Pakistan at Centurion from Wednesday.

The Proteas are expected to carry a seam-heavy attack on the unpredictable surface and, especially with significant rain currently on the radar for roughly the middle of the Test onward, first-choice Keshav Maharaj will carry the lone can spin-wise: he is the only specialist in the current squad anyway.

But Piedt is increasingly sticking up his hand for fresh inclusion in the five-day plans, to the extent that it is not impossible he returns to the fold before the home roster - three against Pakistan, two against Sri Lanka - has run its course.

An even better likelihood later presents itself for the 28-year-old, however: a call-up for the Proteas' particularly taxing first challenge of the ICC's all-new World Test Championship (2019-2021) itinerary, three Tests in India at the start of next season.

The 50-overs World Cup in the UK will be a major diversion in the meantime, but the imminent Test series against the Pakistanis and then the shorter visit from the Sri Lankans are nevertheless important in South Africa - about to start just their second home Test season under the coaching charge of Ottis Gibson - trying to show off some muscle in the extended format ahead of the next, daunting assignment on the Subcontinent.

Even with so many months yet to negotiate, it is highly unlikely that the Proteas will be given much chance, nearer the time, of avoiding starting the Championship on the back foot in India.

Memories remain all too vivid, after all, of their last, mentally-scarring tour of that country in 2015 when they were thumped 3-0 in a four-Test series played on some controversial, prodigious turners and crumblers.

India currently sit atop the world rankings and locked in intriguing, 1-1 combat in the four-Test series in Australia which has two to play.

If Faf du Plessis and company (presently third) want to confirm themselves as something approaching a "machine" again at Test level in time for the Championship, they need to put both seventh-lying Pakistan and Sri Lanka (sixth) away convincingly in the looming few weeks.

Right now, off-spinner Piedt's allegiances lie more closely with his franchise, the 4-Day Franchise Series log-leading Cape Cobras, who next play the Knights in Bloemfontein from January 4.

But another bagful of wickets there for the in-form customer - leading the wicket-takers' list in the competition with 33 at an average of 26 - will make the national selectors’ heads turn ever more forcefully in his favour.

Piedt has just come off career-best match figures of 11/186 in the triumph over the Warriors in Port Elizabeth, the second instance in which he has bagged 10 scalps or more in a first-class match.

In doing so at St George's Park, he also bowled a marathon total of 68-plus overs - confirmation if it was even needed that he has now put far behind him the serious bowling-shoulder injury that afflicted him soon after the start of his international career.

He has played seven, reasonably scattered Tests so far (24 wickets at 36.04) although the last was almost two and a half years ago in mid-2016.

Although Maharaj has cemented himself quite nicely as the country's premier Test spin option in more recent times, Piedt would potentially be a decent foil for the left-armer if they operated together for the Proteas as he turns the ball primarily the other way.

Even if the rest of the home Test season is marked by South Africa needing only one specialist spinner, they will require a broader arsenal in that department for the trek to India around October.

If Piedt comes strongly to the fore for selection, through continued excellence domestically in the meantime, he would pretty much be going full circle, as he was part of the extended squad for the disastrous 2015 mission.

The Proteas used spinners like Imran Tahir, Simon Harmer and part-timers JP Duminy and Dean Elgar in the early parts of that series, but Piedt belatedly got the nod for the dead-rubber fourth Test at Delhi.

He duly landed figures of four for 117 in India's first knock, including the big fish of Virat Kohli, as if to underline that he is well capable of prospering in such favourable landscapes for his trade ...

*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing

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