South Africa v England, 4th Test, Centurion January 20, 2016

Cook set for debut as Rossouw released


Stephen Cook talks with Russell Domingo © Getty Images

Stephen Cook has moved a step closer to making his Test debut against England in Centurion after Rilee Rossouw was released from South Africa's squad to play for his franchise, Knights, in the fifth round of the Sunfoil series which starts on Thursday.

Stiaan van Zyl, the incumbent opener alongside Dean Elgar, was let go from the squad yesterday after his struggles during the first three Tests where he had a top score of 33 in five innings. The one remaining stumbling block for Cook, a specialist opener who topped the first-class runs charts last season and has scored two centuries and a fifty from three games this summer, would be if South Africa deploy wicketkeeper Quinton de Kock in the opening berth in order to make room for JP Duminy in the middle order.

De Kock missed the Wanderers Test with a knee injury picked up walking his dogs but passed a fitness Test on Wednesday afternoon to be available for selection*. South Africa were pondering moving de Kock into the top two in Johannesburg before the injury he suffered on the eve of the game.

The desire to include Duminy in the middle-order is two-fold. Not only does he offer a part-time offspin but he is coming off the back of a career-best unbeaten 260 for Cape Cobras, scored the match after he was dropped from the Test XI in Cape Town. Room for Duminy can still be found without moving de Kock up the order if South Africa sacrifice Faf du Plessis, who has been among their misfiring men.

Whichever route South Africa take, Elgar will have a new opening partner and is well aware of the qualities Cook would bring.

"Cookie has been knocking on the door for a long time. With a lot of domestic performances he's put in, you cant not notice what he has done in the last two or three seasons. He's done very well for the Lions. He has put up his hand and put a lot of pressure on the openers," Elgar said. "We've opened for the A side. It's an exciting time for Stephen and I know he is looking forward to it. A lot has been written in the media about he never gave up hope of playing for South Africa."

Elgar remained supportive of the axed van Zyl, a regular No. 3 and still believes he has an international future. "It's unfortunate that Stiaan is the guy thats been left out. I feel for him because he was asked to do a job that was foreign for him," Elgar said. "I feel it was a position Stiaan was very capable of doing. I. I feel for him because I know what it's like being in bad form. I don't really have much to say on him opening him opening the batting, but I do sympathise with him."

Hardus Viljoen, the fast bowler who made his debut at the Wanderers and struck with his first ball in Test cricket when he had Alastair Cook caught down the leg side, has also been released from the squad. It now appears likely that the decision over the bowling combination is two from Chris Morris, Kyle Abbott and offspinner Dane Piedt. The inclusion of Piedt would aid in maintaining the four players of colour if Duminy was not recalled.

*January 20, 3.10pmGMT: This story was updated with news of Quinton de Kock's fitness test

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Mashuq on January 22, 2016, 19:20 GMT

    I think you are on to a good one in your reasons for touting Dwaine Pretorius, @Lookingforward. He should debut against New Zealand in August. Your point that "the key for me is bringing that all rounder in ASAP, even if they are not ready. All rounders are rarely ready from word go, they need time." It would be good to see Steyn and Philander back, but Morkel needs to go. The best balanced lineup for me would be Cook, Elgar, Amla, de Villiers, Bavuma/Rossouw, de Kock, Pretorius, Philander, Rabada, Steyn, and a spinner. I incline toward Tabraiz Shamsi but none is head and shoulders above the rest. That team will be really competitive as long as Steyn remains fit. But the Proteas are now in a similar position to Australia a decade back.

  • Shanti on January 22, 2016, 2:39 GMT

    de Kock has to be strong for SA to penetrate the English. Good that de Kock is fit and firming up.

  • Satya on January 21, 2016, 19:51 GMT

    All the best Stephen Cook on your debut! You can maybe think of Matt Hayden when he debuted early and then after a prolonged absence, made a roaring come back to the Aussie team and almost made up for the years which he was left out, with his electric batting. You can maybe do something similar for the Proteas in the next 4-5 years with an amazing average. Go for it!

  • Jacques on January 21, 2016, 15:12 GMT

    Team morale is really bad in SA currently. They all need to pull up their bootstraps, a few selection changes won't do the trick in the long run!

  • Stephen on January 21, 2016, 14:16 GMT

    Seems the selectors are missing a trick, De Kock and Vilas seem to be the incumbents but what about giving Daryn Smit a bash? In his last 12 innings he has scored 752 runs@ 94 WITH 3 hundreds and 4 50's. He has taken 21 catches and 3 stumpings too. Not a bad little leggie either

  • Nazim on January 21, 2016, 13:35 GMT

    @ANDRE117 I see that you included 4 'players of colour' in your team. That's cos they thoroughly deserve to be there based on skill and not colour! How well has Faf done (Recent scores in India: 0, 1, 0, 10, 39, 0, 10, 2, 9, 86 (Newlands runfest), 16 and 14) or Vilas (1, 7, 15, 1, 12, 11, 13, 26 &8) or Stiaan (5, 36, 10, 0, 5, 15, 21, 33, 4, 21 & 11). Even Hardus Viljoen could only manage a solitary wicket off his first ball and was completely wayward after that.

  • greig on January 21, 2016, 13:25 GMT

    @LANDL47 Your assessment and the SA team you selected in your reply to gimme- a-greentop is 100% spot on.

  • grant on January 21, 2016, 12:23 GMT

    Jp needs a decent time in the middle order or lets say 4 or 5. He spent his whole career at 6 or 7 batting with the tail. When the wickets is flat he dont get a chance to bat to inflate his average and when the wicket is lively he bats with the tail who gets out easily leaving him either stranded or out slogging to get a few runs. Give him a chance then he scores. He was batting nicely in Durban in the second innings then gets dropped only to get a career best score. Selectors???? I see nothing wrong with choosing Cook at 33. He can play until we find a replacement who apply their trade in the domestic and should also try and get a county contract. This would improve their batting. Faf has been faffing around too long and should make way until he can find his feet. I'm impressed with roots batting. He played well the last test. Amla and ab must get big runs to lift the morale of the team. QDK must leave his risky batting and get a big one grafting to get him to another level.

  • Russell on January 21, 2016, 12:06 GMT

    The pressure is really on De Villiers - he is their best player and match-winner. It's hard to see South Africa winning without a big performance from him. The negative press surrounding the team and ex-players coming out with all sorts of 'advice' does not help. I fancy Anderson to hit his straps and find some form, Cook is due a big score too

  • Johann on January 21, 2016, 11:40 GMT

    The desire to include Duminy can only be based on quotas and fairy tales.

    He does not have the international record to justify re-selection. Scoring a double ton against weak bowlers on a flat deck changes nothing apart from likely making him feel a bit better about his batting at franchise level.

    Players need to score tons of runs to first get selected for the Proteas. Why make it easy for players that fell from grace to get back in when there is insufficient indication they will be successful? It just discourages aspiring Proteas.

    Rossouw also deserves selection ahead of Faf. His 80-odd at Newlands is the blip in his recent record and does not justify retaining him, even if AB thinks he is needed from a leadership perspective. It is a lot easier to lead if your players are performing.