Things are not really going in South Africa’s way since they’ve landed on English soil.
The Proteas’ campaign started by getting vanquished in the ODI series against the hosts followed by a demoralizing debacle in the Champion’s Trophy when they pusillanimously succumbed against two Asian giants in two consecutive matches. Even in the T20 series against England, their fate didn’t seem to change.
Now it’s time for the quintessential format of cricket in white apparels and the Proteas are badly in need of some significant change in events. Fortunately, history is favouring them too. In their previous two tours in this country (2008 & 2012) they got the better of the English side quite comprehensively and as far as the current form is concerned, after two discomfiting defeats in the subcontinent, England do not seem to be in a very comfortable place in this format. Even in the ICC rankings, South Africa seem to be way ahead (with 117 points) of England (99 points).
Dale Steyn and Jacques Kallis featured pretty conspicuously when they defeated England in their previous tour. Although they are certainly going to be missed, with the likes of Vernon Philander, Kagiso Rabada, AB de Villiers their team still looks pretty formidable.
To bring in some luck South African think-tank has made some changes in their squad. They have named three new players, including opening batsman in Heino Kuhn, middle-order batsman Aiden Markram and all-rounder Andile Phehlukwayo with Stephen Cook and Wayne Parnell being dropped from the side that played in New Zealand. However, in the spin-bowling department, the new sensation Keshav Maharaj has superseded Dane Piedt.
While Kuhn, who is also a wicket-keeper, is quite certain to open at Lord’s, Markram has been included as a cover for Faf du Plessis, South Africa’s Test captain. Faf might miss the first match as he expects the birth of his first child. Should du Plessis not make it back to England in time for that game, Dean Elgar will perform his devoir. Elgar will also lead South Africa in their warm-up match against England Lions in Worcester this week.
Phehlukwayo, the other new addition, has just 24 first-class games under his belt and he joins Chris Morris as a second all-rounder replacing Parnell. Both Morris and Phehlukwayo will be supporting Vernon Philander as back-ups. Philander has recovered from off-season niggles and is now seen as South Africa’s premier two-in-one player. Philander struggled with a groin problem and an ankle injury during his time at Sussex but has been passed completely fit to take his place as part of a six-strong pace battery that will be spearheaded by Kagiso Rabada, Morne Morkel, and Duanne Olivier.
Hashim Amla, who made an iridescent triple hundred during his tour in 2012 at the picturesque Oval, will consolidate the middle order along with JP Duminy and Temba Bavuma, whereas Theunis de Bruyn, who had made his debut in Cook’s place in Hamilton, is the back-up batsman.
Kuhn, the 33 year old wicket-keeper batsman, has had a successful time in England with the South Africa A side. For them he scored a double century against Hampshire and a hundred against England Lions in this very month. A veteran of 12 seasons on the domestic circuit, Kuhn topped the first-class run charts in the season of 2015-16, with more than 1000 runs under his name. Albeit he might only have a few years of international cricket, his inclusion might work as a beacon of light in the darkness now the Proteas are currently in.
Whenever these two sides engage in a skirmish, it becomes a spectacle for the cricket fiends. Whether the Proteas would be able to turn things around, we have to wait a few more days to know that but if you’re a fan of prodigious swing bowling or the ball caressing through the verdant outfield of the Mecca of Cricket, you won’t miss this game for the world.
South Africa squad
Faf du Plessis (captain), Hashim Amla, Temba Bavuma, Theunis de Bruyn, Quinton de Kock (wk), JP Duminy, Dean Elgar, Heino Kuhn, Keshav Maharaj, Aiden Markram, Morne Morkel, Chris Morris, Duanne Olivier, Andile Phehlukwayo, Vernon Philander, Kagiso Rabada
Photo by NAPARAZZI