Petersen recalled to South Africa squad
Opening batsman Alviro Petersen has been recalled to South Africa's 13-man squad for the first Test against Sri Lanka. Uncapped Titans seamer Marchant de Lange has also been included although he is unlikely to play because of a dislocated thumb. Lonwabo Tsotsobe, JP Duminy and Paul Harris have been dropped.
Petersen lost his place for last month's two-Test series against Australia after Jacques Rudolph was recalled to open the batting with captain Graeme Smith. Rudolph did not replicate the form he had shown in the SuperSport Series - where he topped the batting charts last season and scored 592 runs in four matches in this season - and only managed a top score of 30 in four innings.
While Rudolph has failed to live up to the hype, Petersen has made a strong case for a recall. He is second on the first-class batting rankings, with 441 runs at an average of 55.12 and scored 186 in the opening fixture of the season. He also made a fighting 103, on a seamer-friendly pitch, against the touring Australians in a warm-up match last month in Potchefstroom.
Petersen and Smith shared in nine opening stands of at least 50 in the nine Tests they played and there is some suggestion that Petersen will open the batting once again, with Rudolph likely to move down into the middle order, increasing pressure on Ashwell Prince. In his nine Tests Petersen has scored 572 runs at 33.64 with a best of 100.
De Lange is fast emerging as South Africa's Pat Cummins, having been elevated to the Test squad after just 14 first-class matches and while still playing in his first season. He caught the eye with an explosive 5 for 56 against the Australians in Potchefstroom and has impressed with his pace. Batsmen from the Knights, who played against de Lange's Titans earlier in the season, said he was "faster than Morne Morkel," after facing them both.
His speedy rise to the national squad appears part of a plan to assimilate him with the group. De Lange was also he was also invited to train with the South Africa team in their preparations for the second Test against Australia. Barring injury or unusual circumstances, he will likely not be promoted to the starting XI and will be asked to use the experience as a learning curve.
"There is some doubt about whether he will recover in time from his thumb injury but, even if that is the case, he will learn a great deal just from being part of the national squad environment," Andrew Hudson, convenor of selectors, said.
The bowling attack will be the same as the one which played against Australia, spearheaded by Dale Steyn, who will likely share the new ball with Vernon Philander. Morne Morkel will have time to settle into a different role as first change while Imran Tahir is the sole spinner in the squad.
Tahir's debut was much anticipated but he fell short of expectations, save for a spell on the second afternoon of the Wanderers Test when he cleaned up the Australian tail. However, he has been given another opportunity to build on his domestic form.
The only other player who was facing pressure for his place was wicketkeeper Mark Boucher, who did not contribute with the bat against Australia with 20 runs in three innings. Boucher remains the country's top gloveman and the selectors have decided not to include a back-up keeper in the squad. They have the door open to add players for the second and third Test, with Hudson saying the squad is likely to expand over that period.
A South African Invitation XI, which includes Thami Tsolekile and Harris, will play a three-day warm-up match against the Sri Lankans in Benoni starting on Friday, with the first Test scheduled to be played in Centurion from December 15.
South Africa squad Graeme Smith (capt), AB de Villiers, Hashim Amla, Mark Boucher (wk), Marchant de Lange, Imran Tahir, Jacques Kallis, Morne Morkel, Alviro Petersen, Vernon Philander, Ashwell Prince, Jacques Rudolph, Dale Steyn