Four test­ing ques­tions ahead of Eng­land se­ries

CityPress - - Sport - HEINZ SCHENK sports@city­press.co.za

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.

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