Alviro Petersen replaces injured Smith for South Africa
Alviro Petersen has replaced his Test opening partner, Graeme Smith in South Africa's Champions Trophy squad. Smith has been ruled out following the recurrence of an ankle injury that requires surgery. Petersen will partner Hashim Amla at the top of the order to bring stability to a South African line-up that will be without Smith and Jacques Kallis, after the latter opted out due to personal reasons. He was picked on the value of his experience, strong county form and a modest record in the format, despite not having played an ODI since January 2012.
In the last month, Petersen has scored 537 runs for Somerset across the county championship and the Yorkshire Bank 40 series to enjoy what convener of selectors, Andrew Hudson called the "form of his life." More importantly for Hudson, it proves Petersen has adjusted well to English conditions, which South Africa see as a challenge they must overcome if they hope to lift ICC silverware for the first time in 15 years.
"With the tournament being played early in the England summer, we envisage that bowling conditions will favour the seamers and getting good partnerships going up front is going to be paramount to success," Hudson said.
Patience is one of the hallmarks of Petersen's game, as he showed during his 182 at Headingley during South Africa's tour of England last year. "He is a proper, proven opening batter," Geoff Toyana, Peterson's coach at the Lions franchise in South Africa, said. "He is technically sound and he knows how to build an innings."
Although Petersen played only one 50-over game for the Lions last season, due to international commitments, Toyana chose to use him in the final when he was available. He scored 56, batting at No.4 in the washed-out encounter.
He also played an important part in the Lions Twenty20 campaign, which they won. In those matches, Petersen also batted in the middle-order as part of the Lions' plan to "see his other game". Toyana explained they wanted Petersen to show he could accelerate when needed.
"We wanted to show what he could do when the field was out, and he could clear boundaries and hit into gaps. He adapted to that very well, he showed he can hit the ball in the latter stages of the innings," Toyana said. "I think he can get that balance right for South Africa, as well. He is a smart guy and he will work it out. He knows it's a great opportunity for him especially because he has not played much one-day cricket."
While scoring runs will be Petersen's primary job, he will also have to fill in for Smith in the leadership role. South Africa's one-day squad is notably lacking in players of stature on whom AB de Villiers has leaned on heavily in the past to assist in decision-making. As captain of the Lions, and a regular member of the Test team, Petersen has earned the respect of his compatriots and will be in a position to assist de Villiers if needed.
That "added value" Petersen can offer is, according to Toyana and Hudson, what tipped the scale in his favour and saw him picked over the liked of Henry Davids or Quinton de Kock.
The former will be forgiven for feeling aggrieved. Davids is 33 years old, has done his time on the domestic scene and has played a handful of Twenty20 matches for South Africa with some success. But, he has no playing experience in the UK.
De Kock will have less reason to consider himself snubbed. He has had a tough time at the IPL, where he has played just three matches for Sunrises Hyderabad and managed six runs. Toyana, who also coaches de Kock at franchise level, had comforting words for the 20-year-old. "His time will come," he said.