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February 21, 2013
Rory Kleinveldt has played five List A and five Twenty20 matches at SuperSport Park, but the third Test against Pakistan will be his first appearance in whites at the ground.
Unlike Benoni's Willowmoore Park, the Titans' other home ground, where Kleinveldt has played some franchise matches, Centurion will offer him something. The surface is hard, promises steep bounce, and with humidity high at this time of the year, there will also be swing.
Having played his first three Test matches on pitches that offered nothing, Kleinveldt will finally have something to exploit. It is also an opportunity for him to stake his claim further as the next in line among the bowlers. Especially as the numbers of cricketers looking to establish themselves in that position is growing.
Kleinveldt is South Africa's ready-made substitute, and knows that the only way he can establish a place as a regular is to continue being the best impact player. So far he has stood in twice for Vernon Philander, and this time he will replace Morne Morkel, who is recovering from a hamstring strain.
Only Kleinveldt's selection on debut was tactical, when South Africa decided to go with an all-pace attack against Australia in Brisbane. It was a move that failed on a lifeless track. Kleinveldt struggled to make an impact, and overstepped an embarrassing 12 times.
At that stage, there was concern about South Africa's bowling depth. If Kleinveldt was the best back-up, few wanted to see the rest. It did not matter that Kleinveldt was the leading wicket-taker on the domestic circuit, and that he operated with Philander in much the same, complementary manner Dale Steyn and Morkel worked together at the Titans, or that he had ability to swing the ball both ways.
Because one-Test wonders do not exist under Gary Kirsten's management team, Kleinveldt was guaranteed another chance. That it came so soon may not have been initially planned but it did wonders for Kleinveldt's self-esteem. "Adelaide was a big step for him," Graeme Smith said. "The way he bounced back there after Brisbane was really good, and he took some big wickets."
Kleinveldt did not play in Perth, although he mentioned that being able to experience the WACA pitch was a dream of his. Since returning from Australia, Kleinveldt played a Test in Port Elizabeth, another ground that he was not familiar with. He had only played two first-class matches at St George's Park before playing the Test. He took four wickets and operated in the shadows of Steyn.
Centurion does not have the same reputation as the WACA, but it will give Kleinveldt a chance to test himself in conditions that suit him, and ultimately see if he can "make a big play," in Kirsten-speak, for the team. Smith believes Kleinveldt is ready to make the step up. "I have seen him develop and show more confidence at training. He looks assured. His performance in Port Elizabeth was solid. He bowled well, created good chances and can swing the ball both ways," Smith said. "There is always the expectation to turn in a performance that makes you feel [like] you belong and Rory already looks like he does."
Something else that will spur Kleinveldt on is the presence of Kyle Abbott. The Dolphins quick is known for his ability to swing the ball, and earned his place with the Test squad after finishing as the leading wicket-taker in the first-class competition. Abbott will no doubt have to wait his turn but Kleinvedlt will be aware that the only person nipping at his heels is not Ryan McLaren anymore.
"Kyle was selected because his domestic form was of a high standard. It was my first time seeing him and he bowled well in the nets," Smith said. "The hope is that we have players that can keep challenging and create good competition within the national team. You want a strong domestic system so that when someone needs to step up to Test level, they can."
After Abbott there is Chris Morris, the Lions fast bowler who regularly bowls above 140kph, and Andrew Birch, the consistent Warriors seamer. Among those in the queue are Marchant de Lange, who returned from injury recently, and cranked it up to 150kph in a domestic T20 match. Left-arm fast bowlers Lonwabo Tsotsobe and Wayne Parnell are also waiting in the wings. The cupboard, which Allan Donald worried was bare when he took over as bowling coach in July 2011, is clearly full.
For Kleinveldt that is a reason to ensure he does something memorable at Centurion. For Smith, it's a sign that South Africa have the resources to remain the best team around. "I said when we got to No.1 in England that depth is a key factor for us maintaining the ranking. We have already taken steps down that road with Rory playing a few Tests." Now it will be up to Kleinveldt himself to make sure he continues to remain a part of the unit.
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