Four testing questions ahead of England series
Old archenemies and formidable but unpredictable teams.
Test series between the Proteas and England are seldom boring affairs and the recent headaches of both teams are simply contributing to the excitement. Four issues ahead of Saturday’s first test in Durban look critical: South Africa’s wobbly top order To call the Proteas’ batting performances in the series against India lacklustre does not state it strongly enough.
It was horrific. South Africa could not adapt and were technically lacking with bat in hand.
The biggest concern will be the influence this tragedy has had on the confidence of the players. Captain Hashim Amla is so embattled he struggled in the local four-day series against average bowlers; Stiaan van Zyl was bowled without playing a shot and Dean Elgar was sent packing for a duck.
Faf du Plessis, who scored a poor 60 runs in seven innings in India, was given a rest. Where will the runs come from?
Does Alastair Cook have an opening partner who can do the business?
Trevor Bayliss, England’s coach, said prior to his team’s departure that Alex Hales would be the designated man to face the new ball with captain Cook. Such clarity is encouraging, but Hales did not convert that confidence into runs against a national invitational team in Potchefstroom.
He scored a mere eight in both innings and urgently needs a decent batting showing against South Africa A in Pietermaritzburg. One wonders if the more experienced Nick Compton, currently competing to bat at number three, is not the better choice. AB de Villiers’ big burden He had to score most of the Proteas’ runs in India, and now also has to be the wicketkeeper against the English.
The national selectors were right to eject Dane Vilas. But is it necessary to place South Africa’s runs king under more pressure? When will Quinton de Kock get another chance? Can Abbott fill some big shoes? Team management announced on Friday that Dale Steyn would be fit to play in the series, but other sources indicate he will still have to pass further fitness tests this week.
In India, the Proteas could compensate for his absence because the spinners were able to collect wickets on favourable pitches. Kyle Abbott was also excellent in the final test against India. He not only conceded few runs, but claimed six scalps in trying conditions.
This can give the team hope that Steyn’s shoes can be filled, and Abbott will want to shine on his home field.