TELFORD VICE, Richmond
Thirty-two degrees, 32 degrees again, and 33 degrees with a thunderstorm for added flavour. Welcome, England, to Potchefstroom: that’s the forecast for the next three days.
And a keenly watched three days they will be, what with Alastair Cook’s team playing their first match on tour.
They will be ranged against a SA Invitation XI notable for the fact that eight of its members are of colour. Among those who are not is Aiden Markram, the captain, who led SA to triumph in the 2014 under-19 World Cup.
Look out for fast bowler Andile Phehlukwayo, who held his 19-year-old nerve superbly in the last over of the Dolphins’ franchise T20 semi-final at Kingsmead on Wednesday. Asked to defend nine runs, he conceded six fewer than that and took two wickets.
Three days later in the final against the Titans at Centurion, Quinton de Kock presented his leading edge to Phehlukwayo’s first ball of the match – which found extra bounce – and was caught at cover.
Not that Tuesday’s game will be anything like those. It will be mostly about England attuning themselves to South African conditions and pondering their batting line-up ahead of the first test at Kingsmead on December 26.
How, for instance, will uncapped Alex Hales go, especially after England coach Trevor Bayliss has left little doubt that he will walk out to face the new ball in Durban?
“He’s the other opener in the squad at this stage and I very much doubt whether anyone else would take that spot,” Bayliss said. “He deserves his opportunity at the top of the order to try and make that spot his own.”
Another uncapped player, left-arm fast bowler Mark Footitt, will be watched for confirmation – or lack thereof – of hints and allegations that he is no less than the new Mitchell Johnson.
In Potch? Good luck. But let’s pretend …
“It’s nice to be compared to bowlers like that, but I’m just me really and I’ll go out and do what I do best,” Footitt said.
“You just have to enjoy every day. It took a long time for me to get here but things happen and people develop at different ages and I seem to have developed a bit better in the past two or three years.
“It’s just getting to a certain age and learning your game. When I was younger I was very raw, very pacy but didn’t have much accuracy. But hard work has got me to where I am today. It’s just an exciting time to be here really.”
Footitt is 30. Phehlukwayo has no clue how he feels.
SA Invitation XI: Aiden Markram (captain), Gionne Koopman, Luthando Mnyanda, Zubayr Hamza, Somila Seyibokwe, Heinrich Klaasen, Simon Khomari, Andile Phehlukwayo, Johannes Diseko, Thandolwethu Mnyaka, Junior Dala, Ruben Claassen.