Piedt v Harmer for Proteas?

Dane Piedt (Gallo Images)
Dane Piedt (Gallo Images)
Cape Town - Whether Cape Cobras’ Sunfoil Series title-winning sensation Dane Piedt travels to Australia or Sri Lanka for his significant, upgraded winter cricket this year presents an intriguing debate over the next few weeks.

One thing seems sure: the young off-spinner won’t be having a full off-season, as he is going to be elevated either to SA ‘A’ duty Down Under or the full Proteas Test squad for a series in ‘Lanka in July.

Piedt ended the 2013/14 premier domestic first-class competition a few days ago as the leading wicket-taker with 45 at a standout average of 19.93.

He claimed at least one five-wicket haul in four of his last five outings for the Cobras as they gradually turned the screws toward title success under the coaching stewardship of unorthodox former Proteas slow bowler Paul “Gogga” Adams.

Intriguingly, the runner-up in the Sunfoil Series wickets column was Simon Harmer, another off-spinner, who bagged 40 for the Warriors, although he had to work rather harder for them as his average was 35.72.

It was an encouraging state of affairs for national coach Russell Domingo and selection boss Andrew Hudson, because they are almost certainly in the market for a back-up to leg-spinner Imran Tahir, the likeliest main spinner for the two-Test challenge on the Subcontinent in the second half of July.

South Africa remain the No 1-ranked Test team in the world despite their rare 2-1 home series loss to Australia, and in recent years have found five-day success in Sri Lanka hard to come by; they haven’t won there since the heyday of Allan Donald and Brett Schultz as a head-hunting pair in the early 1990s.

In broadest terms, the position of Tahir in the Test side is less than wholly secure - the 35-year-old Pakistan-born leggie has 36 wickets at a pretty expensive 43.08.

Increasingly, however, he is producing the goods in all formats for his adopted country in favourable Asian conditions.

He has now shone in both a World Cup-proper on the Subcontinent in 2011 and more recently ICC World Twenty20, whilst in his lone Asian-staged Test match thus far - the victorious, series-squaring second against Pakistan in Dubai in October - claimed influential figures of 5/32 and 3/98.

He had replaced an ineffectual Robin Peterson (match return 0/125) after the first-Test reverse in Abu Dhabi.

Peterson may well still have a lingering Proteas shelf life at limited-overs level, where he also offers something with the bat and in fielding dynamism, but the time seems to have come to move on from him now as a Test option: he will turn 35 himself in August.

With both Piedt, 24, and the 25-year-old Harmer excelling in the latest Sunfoil Series, additional ammunition exists for a fresh face to join the Test squad mix.

South Africa may well envisage, at long range, fielding Tahir and all-rounder JP Duminy as their two spinners for the first Test against Sri Lanka at Galle from July 16, but if the pitch is a rank turner would have to think about another, and would doubtless want an extra tweaking option in the wider touring party anyway.

It is here that the two young, in-form guns come into the equation.

Of course if the wise men have been suitably enough impressed by Piedt’s luminary achievements this season, he may be fast-tracked over Harmer to the senior national squad.

But they have also created a sensible pecking order, with praiseworthy SA ‘A’ performance often a key to elevation to the senior party - somebody like Dean Elgar largely forced his way into Test selection through his hard yards in that landscape.

Harmer is the “bubbling under” incumbent, really, as main spinner for SA ‘A’: in August last year he went a long way to setting up a 1-0 unofficial Test mini-series triumph over Australian counterparts by grabbing second-innings figures of 8/87 in the Rustenburg decider.

It was announced by Cricket South Africa on Tuesday that SA ‘A’ will tackle the Aussies again - this time away - during July and September this year.

Whichever of Harmer or Piedt goes to Sri Lanka and the other to Australia, both men will be advised to have their passports in suitable order ...

*A reminder of Piedt’s last six Cobras Sunfoil Series performances, from most recent:

Lions, Johannesburg: 2/46 and 5/51
Warriors, Cape Town: 2/37 and 1/82
Knights: Kimberley: 5/30 and 2/55
Titans, Paarl: 1/51 and 6/100
Dolphins, Paarl: 0/93 and 5/16
Lions, Cape Town: 4/28 and 2/49

*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing
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