Proteas keen to turn tour around for the bet­ter

The Star Early Edition - - SPORT -

trips to Eng­land are both re­garded as suc­cess­ful as the Test se­ries were won on each visit, but on both oc­ca­sions the Tests came at the start of the tour.

In 2008 it was as if the air was let out of the bal­loon after an his­toric first Test se­ries triumph in Eng­land in over 40 years and the sub­se­quent one-day se­ries was lost, while the 2012 triumph saw the team earn the No 1 ranking, though the one-day se­ries on that tour was drawn and the T20 se­ries lost, but no one cared that much. This time, the Cham­pi­ons Tro­phy was so poorly played that there is a dan­ger some lin­ger­ing doubts may spill over into the Test por­tion of the tour.

Throw in the likely ab­sence of in­spi­ra­tional cap­tain Faf du Plessis and con­cerns over who the next coach will be and South Africa cer­tainly do ap­pear as if they’ll be start­ing the se­ries on the back foot.

There­fore, it’s cru­cial they make an im­pres­sion at Worces­ter against an Eng­land A side - aka the Lions - fea­tur­ing four play­ers with Test ex­pe­ri­ence.

Left-hand opener Keaton Jen­nings is likely to fea­ture at Lord’s next week, while Gary Bal­lance, who cap­tains the Lions, may be an out­side bet to sneak into the squad for the first Test. Sam Rob­son and quick bowler Liam Plun­kett have also played Tests for Eng­land and in the lat­ter’s case, a good per­for­mance against South Africa may see him roped in as cover as there still ap­pears to be con­cern over the fit­ness of Stu­art Broad, who has an in­jured heel.

The SA play­ers are at var­i­ous stages of readi­ness as far as match play is con­cerned.

Heino Kuhn, Ai­den Markram and Temba Bavuma have been in ac­tion for the SA ‘A’ side, which it­self had a wretched tour to Eng­land, los­ing one-day and four-day matches to their Eng­land coun­ter­parts.

Kuhn, 33, who made a dou­ble century against a sec­ond string Hamp­shire out­fit and then a century against the Lions, was among those who en­hanced his rep­u­ta­tion and got picked in the Test squad as a re­sult.

“I have ma­tured a lot over the years as a bat­ter and as a crick­eter,” he said yes­ter­day.

“I be­lieve ev­ery­thing hap­pens for a rea­son and maybe five years ago wasn’t my time. I’m happy to be here and I’m look­ing for­ward to the chal­lenge. I’m go­ing to try and ap­proach it like I do with ev­ery game. I know there is go­ing to be a bit more pres­sure, es­pe­cially if I make my de­but, but it will be im­por­tant to see it like any other game.

“Open­ing the bat­ting ev­ery­where is tough but it’s a lot more chal­leng­ing in South Africa and Eng­land. My job is to take the new­ness off the ball. I’ll have to try and leave as well as I can, know where my off-stump is and take it from there.”

Chris Morris, Andile Phehluk­wayo and Morne Morkel have been in­volved through­out the tour, while Hashim Amla, JP Du­miny, Quin­ton de Kock and Kag­iso Rabada had time off after the Cham­pi­ons Tro­phy.

Du Plessis stayed home as his wife Imari awaits the birth of their first child. If as seems likely, he misses the first Test start­ing next Thurs­day, Dean El­gar will cap­tain South Africa at Lord’s.

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