TELFORD VICE, Newlands
A wicketkeeper opened the batting and scored 141 on the first day of the franchise first-class season on Thursday, and his name was not Quinton de Kock or AB de Villiers.
Instead, he was Heino Kuhn – and it’s worth asking why Kuhn isn’t the answer to SA’s balancing act for the test series against England that starts at Kingsmead on December 26.
Kuhn has worn a SA shirt in five Twenty20s, the last of them four years ago. Since then, he has scored a dozen centuries in 64 first-class innings. For the Titans last season, he had efforts of 132 and 244 not out among his 527 runs, which he scored in 11 innings at an average of 58.55.
But De Villiers has either volunteered or been begged – it depends who you ask – to be a square peg in a round hole behind the stumps for the first two tests against England, which De Kock will miss while the suits and the tracksuits decide how much longer he should be out in the cold.
Kuhn had a far better time of things than the five members of the SA squad who were in action on Thursday.
Temba Bavuma was at the top of that class with his 52 not out, which he scored off 98 balls batting at No. 5 for the Lions against the Dolphins at the Wanderers.
At Newlands, the Knights’ Shadley van Schalkwyk counted Hashim Amla and JP Duminy among his victims in his haul of 5/45.
Amla played back to a delivery that snuck away off the seam and was caught behind for 10.
Duminy went back to a ball that didn’t bounce as high as he seemed to expect and was trapped in front for 35, a decent reward for the 84 balls he faced in just more than an hour-and-a-half at the crease.
The Cobras’ other player in SA’s batting line-up, Stiaan van Zyl, offered no stroke to an inswinger from Dillon du Preez and was bowled for 15.
All three will hope for improved performances in the second innings in the wake of their difficult test series in India, where Amla averaged 16.85, Duminy 14.00 and Van Zyl 11.20.
Cobras’ off-spinner Dane Piedt, the only specialist slow bowler in SA’s squad to face England, bowled six probing overs for 11 runs and no reward.
That was less forgettable than Dean Elgar’s day. The opener was one of SA’s more successful batsmen in India with 137 runs in seven innings, but he was undone for a duck by the second ball he faced – a useful delivery that took the edge and was caught in the slips.
And so to the Poms in Potchefstroom, where the last day of their three-day match against a SA Invitation XI was struck down by lightning after 24.4 overs.
However, that was long enough for England to lose 7/55 in a second innings of 190 in which no player reached 40 and all but one wicket fell to fast bowlers.
That was a departure from England’s first innings of 470/7 declared, when James Taylor and Ben Stokes made centuries.
England have another opportunity to iron out the kinks before the series in a three-day game against SA A that starts on Sunday in Pietermaritzburg.