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Firdose Moonda in Brisbane
November 10, 2012
JP Duminy knows the impact a moment can have on a career. The instant Ashwell Prince's hand was fractured in Perth in 2008, Duminy was given a chance to perform on the international stage. In a nasty twist, the second he snapped his Achilles' tendon in Brisbane someone else will get that opportunity this time.
Faf du Plessis is going to be the biggest benefactor of that. This is his second tour as a back-up batsman in the Test squad - a spot he earned through his improvements in the first-class game - and will likely slot in Duminy's place. Until Matthew Maynard took charge of the Titans, du Plessis was batting in the lower middle-order, did not spent much time at the crease as a result and his string of low scores came through batting with the tail.
Maynard suggested that du Plessis move up to No. 4 and the change gave him everything he did not have before: more time and more runs. In four first-class matches he scored 599 runs which included three hundreds. Du Plessis captained South Africa A against Sri Lanka A in June and scored a hundred in the first unofficial Test. He was due to lead them again in Ireland but was called up to the Test squad in England after Albie Morkel suffered an ankle injury.
Batting at No. 7 will put du Plessis back in the position where he floundered at the Titans but in a Test side, he won't complain. Du Plessis will also offer the option of his more than part-time legspin and has been rated one of the best fielders in the world. As a replacement, he is more than ideal, which can only serve to worry Duminy more.
The rest of the chasing pack inspires a little less confidence. One of Dean Elgar, Justin Ontong, Prince or Colin Ingram will be called up as a shadow member of the squad. ESPNcricinfo understand that Elgar is in prime position to get the nod, although his first-class form of late has not been as notable as the other candidates.
His overall average is an impressive 44.75 but he has only played one match this season in which he scored 44 and 2. He was part of South Africa's ODI squad in England and top scored with 42 and played with du Plessis against Sri Lanka A where he outscored him with 171. He was also part of South Africa's one-day squad who faced Sri Lanka in January but tore ligaments in his knee and experienced a lengthy injury layoff.
Elgar's call-up will be seen as a long time coming, given that he has long hovered around the national set-up and is considered to be the future. But going back to the past has not always hurt South Africa. Vernon Philander, Rory Kleinveldt and Hashim Amla are cases in point and could serve as the example to recall an old hand.
All three of Ontong, Prince and Ingram have been in good form and are difficult to look past. For Ontong, being re-selected could be a coming full circle after his last tour of Australia - the traumatic 2001-02 series where he was picked over Jacques Rudolph. Of the middle-order batsmen last season, Ontong was the top scorer. In nine matches, he scored 658 runs at an average of 59.81, with two hundreds and four fifties. He is currently captaining the Cobras and has been involved in the limited-overs squads.
For Prince, anther nod would also be a completion of something. He lost his place after the 2008 injury to Duminy and although he would never wish to get it back in the same fashion, it may be fate's way of repaying him. Since Prince was dropped after the Boxing Day Test against Sri Lanka in Durban last December, he has done well for Lancashire and started this season with 213 runs in three matches for the Warriors. He remains a nationally contracted player and Andrew Hudson, convenor of selectors, said at the time of Prince's exit that he would remain in their thoughts.
Prince's experience would not go unnoticed either, especially as it is a trait Gary Kirsten has placed great value in. But it could also be a quality which works against him. South African management may not fancy calling Prince up only to put him on the bench, which is the domain of rookies.
For that reason, Ingram could come into contention having played in the limited-overs sides but never being part of the Test squad. Ingram fell out of favour after the ODI series against Sri Lanka in January but has been churning out the runs at franchise level. His 270 runs in three matches this season have come at an average of 54.00.
With South African cricket making a noticeable effort to reward performances at domestic level, any of these players would be deserving of their place, just as Duminy was four years ago.
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondentFeeds: Firdose Moonda
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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