Newlands, we have a problem

Times Media

TELFORD VICE, Kingsmead

THINGS fall apart. But not often as rapidly as they have for SA, who lurched to their third consecutive loss in the first test against England that ended at Kingsmead on Thursday.

“There’s some disappointed players in the changeroom and some disappointed coaches around,” Russell Domingo said. “And a lot of work to do.”

And, he didn’t have to add, not a lot of time in which to do it: the second test starts at Newlands on Saturday.

But it could get worse. In fact, it has what with Hashim Amla not making sense: “One change definitely will happen with Dale maybe not being fit.

“So there may be a necessary change there. After that, I can only give my opinion. The rest of it is left to the selectors.”

What was Amla’s view on the changes his team needed to be more competitive?

“My opinion is that if Dale is not fit, somebody else will come in.”

Thanks for that, Hash. It would seem to mean that Dale Steyn, he of the shoulder strain following hard on the heels of a groin strain, is a doubtful starter for Saturday.

Fuss and bother, especially as England are likely to have James Anderson back from the calf problem that kept him out of the first test. How Anderson, No. 3 in the test bowling rankings rankings, can be drafted into an attack who have freshly dismissed the world’s No. 1 team for 214 and 174 is a headache SA would love to have.

But bowling is not SA’s problem. Batting is. They have averaged 18.20 per batsmen since their series against West Indies in January, and this in a side in which Faf du Plessis, Amla and AB de Villiers average above 40 and the latter two above 50.

Newlands, we have a problem.

The selectors’ response has been to recall Quinton de Kock and Chris Morris. What that means for a batting line-up in which only De Villiers and Dean Elgar deserve to keep their places is unclear.

The plan would seem to be to ease De Villiers’ now notoriously arduous workload by installing De Kock behind the stumps. That would probably mean dropping Bavuma.

That Bavuma should get the chop before Stiaan van Zyl, Du Plessis or Duminy is unfair, especially as in India he proved his ability to bat up the order. De Kock’s return would do nothing to fill that vacancy.

“Quinton has got a lot of his runs in four-day cricket batting at No. 6, not as an opener,” Domingo said. “Heino Kuhn opens for the Titans. That is another thing that needs to be debated.

“Do we now go and put what we perceive to be not a specialist opener in? We can only play 11 players. Two or three other opening batsmen got runs this weekend. So did Dean Elgar. You can only pick one other.”

This weekend, Stephen Cook scored 168 not out, Rudi Second made 122, and Andrew Puttick and Reeza Hendricks chalked up 92 and 57 – all as opening batsmen.

Cook had six centuries and a half-century and averaged 67.00 in 19 first-class innings last season. When he was selected in the SA A side to play England in Pietermaritzburg last week, he would have been forgiven for thinking his efforts had been noticed.

When he stood firm for an unbeaten 53 as SA A crumbled to 136 all out, he must have thought a SA call-up was only a Kingsmead collapse away. That collapse happened – twice – but Cook is still not in the test kitchen.

Then again, Imran Tahir, dropped from the test squad after an underwhelming performance in India, took match figures of 12/133 for the Dolphins against the Knights in Kimberley at the weekend – highlighting the quality chasm that gapes between franchise and international cricket.

After Kingsmead, it also stretches wide between SA and England.

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