TELFORD VICE, Cape Town
DEAN Elgar and Vernon Philander will have a good look at who and what they will be up against on South Africa’s tour of England this year when they turn out for Somerset and Sussex this winter.
But the deal cuts both ways: England’s batsmen and bowlers will also see what the South Africans are made of.
“It will be such an advantage and it will give them inside information not just on the wickets but also certain players; it will help them keep an eye on players they’re going to come across,” Allan Donald said on Friday.
The other side of that coin was that “I’m sure Joe Root and those guys will play county cricket leading up to what will be the marquee series of the summer”.
Elgar wasn’t part of squad that won the series in England in 2012, South Africa’s most recent test rubber there.
But Philander was. He arrived to questions based on ignorance – “Isn’t he just a club bowler?” – and left with more wickets than any Englishman and the best series average in either attack.
Now that Philander is back to his best, having taken 29 wickets at 18.31 in the six tests he played against Australia and Sri Lanka after missing much of last season with an ankle injury, questions over his quality are unlikely.
He will play six championship matches and the group stage of the limited overs competition in the first half of the season.
Elgar, who according to Somerset’s website will play for the county in all formats “when his international commitments allow”, could be in for a masterclass.
“They’re the best batting wickets in the world,” Donald said.
“At the start of the summer the ball will nip around and do things, but it helps if you adjust your technique and you do get used to the Duke ball.
“It’s lekker that they get the opportunity to have a good sniff around and suss out the conditions, and facing some of those England bowlers will give ‘Deano’ a good look at what he’s going to be up against.
“That’s going to be great experience for him. For me, it’s the best tour he’ll ever go on – from a cricket culture point of view and to see how the poms value their cricket.
“It’s a hell of a tradition but to succeed there you’re going to have to earn it.
“Dean’s playing well, and for him to adjust his technique in different conditions – especially in England – is going to be a big test for him.”
Elgar has established himself as South Africa’s senior opener, but while he averages 49.13 in the 18 tests he has played at home that drops to 27.80 in his 13 away matches.
Playing in England could help him narrow that gap.
Donald played more first-class matches for Warwickshire – 141 – than any other team, South Africa and Free State included, and is Kent’s new assistant coach.
He was looking forward to bumping into Elgar and Philander around the county circuit, and he took the opportunity to place an advertisement.
“I’m sure we’ll see a lot of each other this summer,” Donald said.
“It’s a great thing for players to gain experience in England and it should happen more often.
“If you get the opportunity, take it – I know that Kent are looking for an overseas player.
“We’re pushing on a few buttons and seeing what we might come across.”
Calm down, sportslovers. He said overseas player, not Kolpak player.