Proteas do need emergency changes

Hashim Amla (Gallo Images)
Hashim Amla (Gallo Images)
Cape Town - Panic can lead to ill-advised, sometimes excessive measures ... but inertia also has to be spiritedly guarded against for a consistently embattled Test cricket team.

South Africa are very much still stuck in a fragile mental rut, following a thumping 241-run defeat in the first of four contests against England at Kingsmead - a now quite abject hoodoo home venue - on Wednesday.

The Proteas were only able to last out an hour and 40 minutes with their remaining six wickets on the final day, as they ended with yet another paltry total following their earlier, routine woes at the crease in India.

Clearly the overwhelming majority of their troubles lie in the batting department; former captain Graeme Smith did remind in his role as a SuperSport pundit afterwards that the bowlers largely “have been doing the 20-wickets job over the last period of time”.

Although Chris Morris has been hastily added to the squad for the fast turnaround to Newlands on Saturday - along with the expected recall of wicketkeeper/batsman Quinton de Kock - it seems to make pretty good sense for the Proteas to make just one alteration to their likely four-man specialist attack, with Kagiso Rabada coming in for Dale Steyn.

The ageing Phalaborwa Express, regrettably, looks a desperately long shot to be able to get through five days so soon after breaking down with a shoulder injury during the Durban fixture, although he remains in a now 15-strong party.

So the bottom four in the team should comprise Messrs Rabada, Abbott, Piedt and Morkel, in whatever order the brains trust choose to assemble the unavoidably iffy tail.

But it is higher up that all sorts of headaches exist, given the collective, glaring shortfall in both confidence and form by a handful of batsmen.

Frankly, I don’t believe South Africa can afford to stick too en masse with such a swollen group of currently skittish customers, so the potential exists - and probably should be exploited - for them not only to recall to the XI the prodigiously talented De Kock (including assuming the glovework from premier stroke-player AB de Villiers) but finally allow for a Test debut by Rilee Rossouw.

Both he and De Kock are highly positive batsmen by nature - they have demonstrated it in volumes at one-day international level - and that is a quality the Proteas need with some urgency, even whilst acknowledging the duo’s combined inexperience on the Test front.

Rossouw, the tall left-hander from Bloemfontein, 26, has patiently awaited his turn in the five-day arena, after amassing 5 508 first-class runs at just under 45 and deserves a crack in the middle order.

He has a bit of a reputation for being vulnerable to swift dismissal, but when he gets properly set he is also well capable of staying at the crease for really lengthy periods of time (a domestic triple-century rests among his statistics) and building into a crescendo of withering boundary-hitting.

It seems the controversial intention is to stick for the moment with Stiaan van Zyl as an opener, despite his obvious better suitability to a slot a bit further down; he did produce some pulsating shots during a second knock of 33 at Kingsmead.

Van Zyl also adds some value as an occasional choke-the-runs medium-pacer, a far from unimportant consideration when you bear in mind the lack of a proper all-rounder in the SA arsenal and the resultant extra pressure on the specialist quartet of bowlers.

So if Rossouw is to be accommodated at Newlands along with the near shoo-in De Kock, it seriously endangers all of the misfiring trio of Faf du Plessis, Temba Bavuma and JP Duminy.

Kepler Wessels made valid mention of the fact that Du Plessis seems to have become just too bogged down in “survival cricket” right now, despite his already-known qualities as a scrapper.

He is too good a player - not to mention excellent fielder, something the Proteas also cannot afford to shed too lightly – to stay down for long, but the time somehow seems appropriate to withdraw him from the firing line and expect a bounce-back response, perhaps via some meaty showings in the Sunfoil Series.

If Du Plessis was dropped, then one of Bavuma and Duminy may also have to make way.

Duminy’s cause is assisted by the fact that he is experienced and knows Newlands so well, was the lone meaningful resister on Wednesday morning (26 not out off 59 balls), and offers additional off-spin to the mix - although there seems to be a mysterious lack of faith in that particular string to his bow at present.

Then again, he has been skating on thin ice at Test level for some time, whilst Bavuma is in his infancy for the Proteas and it would be cruel to jettison him too quickly.

But desperate times do call for tough remedial measures, and desperation almost certainly has engulfed the SA Test camp ...

Suggested SA team (three changes) for Newlands, based on revised, enlarged squad named:

Stiaan van Zyl, Dean Elgar, Hashim Amla, AB de Villiers, Rilee Rossouw, JP Duminy/Temba Bavuma, Quinton de Kock, Kagiso Rabada, Kyle Abbott, Dane Piedt, Morne Morkel

*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing

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