England in South Africa 2015-16 January 8, 2016

South Africa unchanged for last two Tests


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Selectors keep faith in South Africa squad

South Africa's selectors have kept faith in the squad that drew the Newlands' Test and named an unchanged 16 for the remaining two matches against England. They also largely stuck with the same ODI squad that beat India 3-2 last November, with left-arm spinner Aaron Phangiso left out and batsman Rilee Rossouw brought back in. AB de Villiers will lead both sides after taking over from Hashim Amla as Test captain.

That meant no space for specialist opening batsman Stephen Cook in the Test squad, which suggests out of form Stiaan van Zyl will have another opportunity to take ownership of the role. Vernon Philander, who has been sidelined with torn ankle ligaments, also does not appear to be in line for an international comeback until at least the end of February, and offspinner Simon Harmer also misses out.

"We were highly encouraged by the performance put up at Newlands. The very fact that they were nearly able to force a win after conceding 600 runs on the first innings speaks volumes for the character of this group of players," said Linda Zondi, South Africa's selection panel convener. "We feel we have all our bases covered and also the options that will enable the team to exploit whatever conditions they encounter at the Wanderers Stadium and at SuperSport Park."

Both venues promise fast, bouncy surfaces with good carry so South Africa's hopes will be pinned on Dale Steyn being fit after he missed four of the last six Tests with injury. At the conclusion of the Newlands match, Steyn was said to be 50-50 and team management will reassess his status when the squad regroups in Johannesburg on Monday. If he is fit, they will have to leave out either Chris Morris or Kagiso Rabada.

Should Steyn still be struggling, South Africa have options. Kyle Abbott has fully recovered from a hamstring niggle while Hardus Viljoen, who plays his domestic cricket for the Johannesburg-based Lions franchise and knows the Wanderers well, has also been retained in the squad. South Africa have thus also left open the possibility of playing four quicks.

Changes to the batting department appear unlikely as the only reserve batsman in the squad, Rossouw, is not a specialist opener and the only place open would be in the top two. Van Zyl has scored just 52 runs in this last seven innings as an opener but is holding on to his place.

After Faf du Plessis regained form in Cape Town and Temba Bavuma showed what he is capable of in the middle order, JP Duminy will find it difficult to find his way back into the XI. He made a strong case for comeback though, with a double hundred for the Cobras against the Lions in Paarl in the first-class competition. In the same match, discarded wicketkeeper Dane Vilas scored 150 to remind the selectors that Quinton de Kock is not the only option available to them. For now, they don't seem to think so.

Test squad: AB de Villiers (capt), Kyle Abbott, Hashim Amla, Temba Bavuma, Quinton de Kock, JP Duminy, Faf du Plessis, Dean Elgar, Morne Morkel, Chris Morris, Dane Piedt, Kagiso Rabada, Rilee Rossouw, Dale Steyn, Stiaan van Zyl, Hardus Viljoen

ODI squad: AB de Villiers (capt), Kyle Abbott, Hashim Amla, Farhaan Behardien, Quinton de Kock, JP Duminy, Faf du Plessis, Imran Tahir, David Miller, Morne Morkel, Chris Morris, Kagiso Rabada, Rilee Rossouw, Dale Steyn

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent

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  • Dillon on January 9, 2016, 15:24 GMT

    @SAFFA222 Good point about Rossouw - had forgotten about his recent injury problems. Agree that it would be tough on Rossouw if he was to be overlooked in favour of Cook, especially when you consider how well he has played for the SA A side and the senior ODI team. Cook has been unlucky not to be picked, given his form in the last 2 years (maybe a bit like Kuhn?), but Rossouw was also quite unlucky a few years back when the SA selectors decided to pick Elgar and du Plessis ahead of him, even though he was scoring lots of runs in the Sunfoil Series (and also did well on the A team tour to SL that earned Elgar his test call up). Also wonder if Reeza Hendricks might be ahead of Cook right now? He has a poor record for SA A side, but arguably outbatted van Zyl on the recent A tour to India, and has two good 50s in what seemed to be tough conditions in the Sunfoil Series this season. Whatever happens, though, hope Rossouw gets his chance for the test side soon. Really exciting player.

  • Dillon on January 9, 2016, 14:59 GMT

    @FATBOYDRUNK Was Mitchell Marsh the other player you had in mind? Think he possibly has the potential to be a genuine allrounder, especially when you look at this performances in ODIs, but right now he is nowhere near the level of Stokes in tests. Actually, his allround record even compares pretty poorly to someone like Philander (419 runs @24, with 1 50 and 21 wkts @31 in 13 tests vs 725 runs @25, with 4 50s and 126 wkts @22 in 32 tests). Also, Marsh is yet to prove that he's good enough to bat at 6 in tests, so who else is there that plays for a 'top test nation'? Guess Jadeja and Ashwin have FC records that suggest they might be able to bat at 6, but I can't really see that happening, even when India plays at home.

    Anyway - since you don't think Bavuma is good enough for test cricket, who would you pick in his place?

  • Dillon on January 9, 2016, 0:39 GMT

    @FATBOYDRUNK Sorry to bore you m8 - sadly we're not all blessed with your gift for pithy profundities. Anyway - according to you when "players are new to Tests we need to look at their 1st class stats. And as Bavuma only has an average of 38 he wouldn't of made it under normal circumstances." - but now that I've shown Bavuma's recent FC and A side stats prove that he has earned his place in the test team, you start talking about how having a "Specialist batsman at number 6 is a thing of the past". What happened to your original point? Also, which top test nations are you referring to here? England (6th) have Stokes, true, but they lost tests at home to SL and NZ, and a series away to Pakistan in 2015. Hardly dominating world cricket. India (2nd) and Pakistan (4th) still pick a specialist batsman at 6 (Rahane/Sharma and Shafiq). NZ (5th) have Anderson, Santner, and Neesham, but they are batting allrounders, not genuine ones like Stokes. Sure, SA doesn't have such players - but who does?

  • Amilcar on January 8, 2016, 18:19 GMT

    @CLOV Completely agree with everything, and in addition when Bavuma made his debut Rossouw was injured, and the SA selectors have always tried to give players a consistent run so Rilee can have no real complaints about being behind him in the pecking order. The real travesty would be if someone else (e.g. Cook) were to now leapfrog Rossouw

  • Adam on January 8, 2016, 18:08 GMT

    @CLOV Sorry fell asleep reading your posts....what did you say? Anyway I'm not saying Bavuma isn't a good player, he just isn't a Test player. Specialist batsman at number 6 is a thing of the past. All the top Test Nations have genuine allrounders in that position, something SA is missing.

  • Neville on January 8, 2016, 17:11 GMT

    Feel really bad for Stephen Cook. He has done EVERYTHING right to be selected for the test squad. Weight of runs is what he is bringing to the table, yet he gets overlooked for someone who is not an opener, and who doesn't know where his off stump is. SvZ is a solid middle order batsman, but all throughout the years we have seen makeshift openers in SA cricket have their careers destroyed (Prince, McKenzie, now SvZ). Cook is on his way to another hundred for the Lions, and what is SvZ doing to get back into form? How is it that the whole of SA can see what's needed, but Mr Zondi (whom I know well from his club playing days) cannot. Australia have no problem debuting 30+ year olds, and look at how successful they are. Come on CSA!

  • Dillon on January 8, 2016, 15:25 GMT

    (PART 4) In fact, Bavuma has almost as many runs for the A side as van Zyl in just over half as many innings (568 at 43.68 in 15 inns vs 742 at 33.72 in 27 inns), and twice as many hundreds. If van Zyl is so much better, why don't his stats prove it yet? While players like Zondo and Mosehle might be benefitting from the quota system at first-class level, Bavuma has clearly earned his place in the national side. To reiterate: he has 2744 runs and 8 100s at 44.98 in 40 games for the Lions - better, as I've already said, than de Bruyn, van Buuren, or van Wyk (better also than Cook, who averages 39.73 for the Lions in 96 games). The only white player who might have some justified complaints here is Rossouw, who has an excellent record for the SA A side (866 runs at 54.12 in 11 games, 3 100s). But given that Rossouw has already opened in ODIs, there is also a case for saying that the selectors ought to have picked him ahead of van Zyl (esp. seeing that Bavuma's recent FC record is better).

  • Dillon on January 8, 2016, 15:11 GMT

    (Part 3) While it *might* be the case that van Zyl's FC numbers have taken a bit of a knock due to the season he spent opening for the Cobras so that he could break into SA's test side, I think it's pretty clear from the stats that (1) van Zyl's Sunfoil Series record is only marginally better than Bavuma's, while (2) his numbers for the SA A side are significantly weaker. Some people have argued that van Zyl would do better for the test side if he could bat in the middle order, but it could also be argued that van Zyl is a specialist no. 3 (where there is no spot open, as long as Amla bats there), while Bavuma is a specialist no. 5 or 6, where there is currently a spot open. If van Zyl had a fantastic record for the A side, then there might be a case for saying that he should be batting at no. 6 ahead of Bavuma based purely on his skill as a batsman - but he hasn't even done as well as Bavuma, in spite of having had 17 games (many batting in the middle order) to prove himself. contd

  • Abdul Majeed Zargar on January 8, 2016, 14:59 GMT

    Good luck south africans and badluck england africans blacks are knocking on the door now

  • Venkata on January 8, 2016, 14:59 GMT

    What is JP Duminy doing in the team? He is hopeless against quality bowling be it Pace or Spin. and give a break to Van Zyl, he is not an opener. But we don't have place in the middle order especially after Bavuma's historic Ton.

    My change for Jo'Burg would be Steyn (if 200% Fit) in for Piedt. Spinners don't have scope at Highveld. Elgar & Van Zyl can bowl the dibbly dobblies if needed. Now that Amla is freed from the captaincy burden, I expect him to replicate what he did in CT, albeit at a better S/R.

    And seaming pitches please!!!

    Go Proteas!!!

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