Rudolph recalled to Test side after five years
Opening batsman Jacques Rudolph, who played the last of his 35 Tests in August 2006, has been recalled to the South Africa Test squad for the two-match series against Australia. Legspinner Imran Tahir and allrounder Vernon Philander also got their first call-ups to the Test squad.
Rudolph came in for opener Alviro Petersen. Also missing were seaming allrounders Wayne Parnell and Ryan McLaren who were both in the squad for South Africa's last Test, in January against India. Graeme Smith will lead the 14-member squad, and AB de Villiers, who missed the limited-overs leg of the series with a hand fracture sustained during the Champions League, will be his deputy if he clears a fitness examination ahead of the first Test from November 9.
Rudolph went into a self-imposed exile in 2007 when he signed a Kolpak contract with Yorkshire with the aim of developing himself into a more complete cricketer. His recall was widely expected following an impressive return to South African domestic cricket. He scored four centuries and made more than 900 first-class runs last season, before leading a successful South Africa A tour to Zimbabwe. This year, he came into the South African season after scoring centuries for Yorkshire in the Clydesdale Bank 40 and the County Championship. He has since been prolific in the SuperSport Series, where he leads the run-charts with 568 runs from six innings, including a match tally of 297 against Lions in his most recent outing.
"Jacques [Rudolph] will open the batting with Graeme Smith," selection convener Andrew Hudson said. "His experience and current form make him an asset to South Africa and at the age of 30 he has plenty of good years of cricket ahead of him. Jacques has underlined once again the importance of good domestic form and the fact that it is the gateway to national selection."
Petersen might consider his axing harsh, as the Lions captain also started the season well. In four matches so far, he has scored 369 runs, including a knock of 186 against the Dolphins in the first match of the SuperSport Series campaign. He spent the winter at Glamorgam, where he passed the 2000 runs mark and felt he had done enough to keep his place in the Test side. He will get a chance to stake his claim for a recall when he leads the South Africa A side in a four-day tour game against the Australians from November 1. JP Duminy and Philander feature in both squads, while Parnell and McLaren were also included in the A team.
"The A side must be seen as a mix of players challenging for places in the South Africa squad as well as others we have identified as having the potential for the future and whom we now need to test at a higher level than franchise cricket," Hudson said. "We have to explore our options for the future."
Philander previously played for South Africa in seven ODIs and the same number of T20s between 2007 and 2008. He has performed consistently in the first-class competition for the last two seasons. In the 2010-11 season, he was the fourth highest wicket-taker with 35 wickets at an average of 16.11. He is unlikely to play, with Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel and Lonwabo Tsotsobe in the squad, but has been earmarked as a possibility for the future. While he is not an express paceman, he has become noted for his variations, much like Tsotsobe.
Someone who is expected to play is Tahir. The Pakistani-born legspinner became eligible for South Africa in January and was immediately selected for their ODI squad to play India. He made his debut at the World Cup but was initially selected for South Africa's Test squad to play England in the 2009-10 season, when he had not yet qualified. He has been talked up as the missing piece in South Africa's attack, which has not had an attacking spinner since Paul Adams.
Tahir's anticipated inclusion was thought to be the final nail in Harris' coffin, after the left-arm spinner was labelled nothing more than a holding bowler. However, Harris has fought back with impressive showings in his first two SuperSport Series games. His 13 wickets have come at an average of 15.38. On a spin-friendly Newlands pitch, South Africa could field two frontline spinners in a Test match - a rarity for the country that traditionally relies on pace.
South Africa squad: Graeme Smith (capt), AB de Villiers (vice-capt), Hashim Amla, Mark Boucher (wk), JP Duminy, Paul Harris, Imran Tahir, Jacques Kallis, Morne Morkel, Vernon Philander, Ashwell Prince, Jacques Rudolph, Dale Steyn, Lonwabo Tsotsobe
South Africa A squad: Alviro Petersen (capt), Farhaan Behardien, Marchant de Lange, JP Duminy, Dean Elgar, Heino Kuhn, Pumelela Matshikwe, Ryan McLaren, Wayne Parnell, Robin Peterson, Vernon Philander, Stiaan van Zyl