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December 13, 2012
Faf du Plessis will lead South Africa in the three Twenty20 internationals against New Zealand in December. AB de Villiers, South Africa's regular limited-overs captain, is part of the squad but won't captain because his workload will be managed over the summer.
The T20 squad has four new players, including a new wicketkeeper to relieve de Villiers of his burden. Quinton de Kock, who turns 20 on Monday and was part of South Africa's most recent under-19 World Cup squad, will don the gloves.
De Kock is seen as one of the options for a permanent wicketkeeper to replace Mark Boucher in all formats. "We need to find a long-term solution because ultimately we [want] to find a top-six batter in the mould of an Adam Gilchirst to do the job in Tests," Andrew Hudson, convenor of selectors, told ESPNCricinfo.
"AB may eventually end up batting No.4 in Tests, when Jacques Kallis is not around, and if he has to take on a more senior batting role, we will need someone else to keep. It will be nice to try Quinton out - he has shown glimpses of talent and we are going to have a look at him in the shorter versions. But, that's not to say to the other keepers in the country that we have passed them by, the door is still very much open."
But it seems to have closed on Thami Tsolekile. Lions' gloveman was nationally contracted in February and touted as Boucher's replacement, but has not played since then. A source close to team management said Tsolekile would be given a run against New Zealand, but the selectors have decided otherwise. He travelled to England and Australia but was left out of the Test squad, which was also named today.
Despite all indications to the contrary, Hudson said Tsolekile remains in the plans. "He has not fallen out of favour. If anything were to happen to AB, he will play." De Villiers has had a history of lower-back problems which recurred after the England series in August, but he has declared himself fully fit.
South Africa squads
He played for Titans in their one-day cup playoff match on Sunday, and although he admitted to being "a bit stiff," he maintained that he experienced no pain. In fact, he said being in the field in that match (Heino Kuhn had the gloves) was harder on his body than wicketkeeping.
He will have to embrace fielding in the shorter formats though, with de Kock set to take over that role as part of a more youthful T20 squad. Richard Levi has been retained in the squad but with Hashim Amla rested, could open the batting with du Plessis or new-comer Henry Davids. The Titans limited-overs captain made a name for himself during the Champions League T20 as an aggressive batsman and is second on the one-day cup batting charts.
The CLT20 also shone a spotlight on left-arm spinner Aaron Phangiso. He finished as the joint second highest wicket-taker and bowled miserly spells for the Lions. Phangiso has been picked as an additional slow-bowling option to Robin Peterson. Johan Botha, who has relocated to Australia, was not considered for selection.
The Lions reached the final of the Champions League Twenty20, and will also play in the final of the one-day cup, so it's no surprise that their players are getting recognition. Allrounder Chris Morris, who travelled with the South African squad for the unofficial T20 tri-series in Zimbabwe in June, is also part of the national squad. Morris, also a big hitter, has bowled consistently in the mid-140kph this season and is the only fast-bowling all-rounder in the squad.
Wayne Parnell, who has been working on his batting, is also in the squad along with fellow left-arm seamer Lonwabo Tsotsobe. There has been a recall for middle-order batsman David Miller in the absence of the injured JP Duminy.
Hudson said South Africa will use the series against New Zealand to concentrate on their combinations, with an eye on the 2014 World Twenty20. "The mix is going to be key. There will be some of the older players that maybe we will move on from. Going into the tournament in two years' time, we want to have a mix of core and some youngsters. We need some flair and we need to bring something different to the party as opposed to just a regular side," he said.
The Test squad, though, is focused on consistency, with the same squad that defeated Australia in Perth retained for the two fixtures against New Zealand. Jacques Rudolph, who was dropped for the final match, has been picked but is unlikely to play. "We will probably look to play Dean [Elgar] and Jacques is the reserve batsman," Hudson said.
The only casualty besides Tsolekile is legspinner Imran Tahir, whose performance in Adelaide has left him needing to do some soul searching. Tahir finished with figures of 0 for 260, the most expensive figures without a wicket in Test history and was replaced with Robin Peterson, who took six wickets in Perth. "Robbie has just gone ahead of Imran, but he remains part of our plans in future," Hudson said.
South Africa have two injury concerns. Jacques Kallis is recovering from a hamstring strain, but is expected to be fit to play in the Tests as an allrounder, and Graeme Smith has bruising on his elbow. Smith was hit in the nets in the lead-up to the one-day cup playoff and will not be fit to play in the final for the Cobras, but the team management is confident he will be ready for the New Year's Test.
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondentFeeds: Firdose Moonda
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