SA mull over No. 7 conundrum
South Africa will probably make one change for the second Test against Australia in Port Elizabeth, and it is likely to be at No.7. Andrew Hudson, the convener of selectors, admitted that South Africa are still working on getting the balance of their side right following the retirement of Jacques Kallis, and suggested that the role, given to Ryan McLaren in the first Test, may still be tinkered with.
"There might be a change but it will be a tweak. It's unlikely we are going to bring someone in from outside," Hudson said at the announcement of the World Twenty20 squad in Johannesburg. "Maybe we need to re-look at our No. 7 position. It's back to the dilemma of getting a balance - a squad that's balanced in Port Elizabeth conditions, that can be low and slow and sometimes can turn."
Despite singling out the spinner's role as a key one in the coastal city, Hudson provided the closest thing he could to an assurance that Robin Peterson's spot is safe, although he hinted the selectors are running out of patience- "We may need to consider putting in a batter at seven and then going with the three quicks and Robbie P."
Peterson took six wickets on his Test return in Perth in 2012, and kept his place throughout the last home summer as well as at the start of South Africa's tour to the UAE. There, in Abu Dhabi, he went wicketless and conceded 125 runs and was replaced with Imran Tahir. But when Tahir copped it against India at the Wanderers, Peterson was recalled again. He took four wickets against India in Durban and three against Australia in Centurion, but has continued to leak runs.
With only Imran Tahir as an alternative spin option at the moment, and Hudson saying the net will not be cast too far, Peterson and JP Duminy will continue to share the slow-bowling duties. Duminy, despite scoring a half-century seven innings ago, will also likely keep his place but may have a safety net in another batsmen to follow him, as Hudson hinted. Dean Elgar, who also bowls left-arm spin, would be the only choice from the current squad.
"There's no doubt JP's a class act. His form hasn't been great, but we all know he's a quality and he's done it before against Australia," Hudson said. "That's the dilemma - whether you play an all-rounder at seven, which gives you the insurance, or whether you go in like Australia and back your players to do a job with four bowlers."
Should South Africa decide on another all-rounder in the role and choose not to give McLaren another go, Wayne Parnell and Rory Kleinveldt are the two candidates available to them. Parnell's home ground is St George's Park and he offers pace but his inconsistency will be a worry, while Kleinveldt will beef up the lower middle order and would be required to do more of a holding job with the ball.
Whatever combination they decide on, Hudson expects the team to put up a better show than they did in Centurion. "They didn't play as well as they could have, and a few things went against them. But the team underperformed and it needs to pick up a gear in Port Elizabeth," he said. "It's about really application. It's about the players rallying together and realising they're up against it. Australia played really well; we were under par. There's no doubt they are the right players. They need to step up to the plate."
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent