Duminy set to make a Test comeback
JP Duminy is set to regain his Test place after 11 months as South Africa embark on a two-Test series against Pakistan. Duminy spent six months recovering from a ruptured Achilles' tendon and after a successful one-day return, has been given a vote of confidence from the national coach to make a Test comeback as well.
"How we've worked is that when a player has a spot and he gets injured, once he is fit again, he will regain his spot. I think that's only fair," Russell Domingo, South Africa's coach said ahead of the squad's departure. "I very much see JP being in the starting XI."
Duminy had previously spent two years out of the Test team following a loss of form after creating a stir with a 50 and unbeaten 166 against Australia in his first two matches. He returned against New Zealand in March 2012 and scored a century and also played an important role in South Africa's win against England at Lord's last June which gave them the Test mace.
He could play no part in their victory over Australia because of his injury. Faf du Plessis took his spot and impressed with a match-saving century in Adelaide. That would mean the likely loser from Duminy's return would be Dean Elgar, who replaced Jacques Rudolph and, apart from a century against New Zealand, has not made the spot his own.
Following an extensive rehabilitation period, Duminy returned to action during the Champions Trophy in June this year. He scored an unbeaten 150 before the tournament during a warm-up against the Netherlands, had a lean run through the competition but had one innings of 97 in the ODI series in Sri Lanka, which South Africa lost 4-1. He has also become a significant contributor with the ball, sending down 36.2 overs of offspin in the five matches.
Duminy's potential as an allrounder is what South Africa are hoping to use to their advantage in the UAE. "With JP back in the mix, whether we need to play a second spinner still needs to be debated," Domingo said.
Conditions are expected to be conducive to turn - given that was how Pakistan got the better of the last No.1 side to tour the UAE, England - and South Africa have included two specialist spinners in their squad. Robin Peterson is the incumbent but they have also brought back Pakistani-born legspinner Imran Tahir, who played 11 Tests but was dropped after conceding 260 runs without taking a wicket in Adelaide.
Peterson has had some success, most notably with five wickets in a match against Pakistan in Cape Town, but Tahir's attacking ability were thought to create a tough contest between the two for a spot. Domingo confirmed he would allow Peterson to start before turning to Tahir. "At the moment, I still feel Robbie is the guy. He has made some contributions," he said. "You are always going to take two spinners to the subcontinent but Imran has to do something special to knock the door down."
The rest of the line-up will retain its familiar look with Graeme Smith fully recovered from ankle surgery to lead the team and open the batting. Domingo indicated he would continue with the seven batsmen and three seamers strategy that was used under Gary Kirsten. "I would be a fool to go in there and make drastic changes," he said. "There might be one change in terms of personnel but the balance of the side will stay pretty much the same."
That one change would be Duminy's return but Elgar need not despair yet. There is a chance he will feature in the series after all because South Africa may have to do without Hashim Amla for the second Test. The No.3 batsman and his wife, Sumayya, are expecting their second child to be born "some time after the first Test" according to team manager Mohammad Moosajee.
Amla will leave Dubai as soon as the match is done and "depending on when the baby arrives", a decision will be made on his availability for the second match. There is a four-day turnaround between games and if Amla does not make it back in time, Elgar, who has batted in the top-order for most of his career, could assume the spot.
Everyone else in the South African squad is fit. Dale Steyn has recovered from the assortment of injuries that plagued him at the Champions Trophy. Rory Kleinveldt's toe laceration has healed and Wayne Parnell's heart issue has also been sorted out.
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent