February 26, 2002

Cullinan to captain SA 'A' team against Australia

Daryll Cullinan
Daryll Cullinan
Photo CricInfo
In one of the clearest indications yet that he is on the verge of a Test recall, Daryll Cullinan has been named captain of the South Africa `A' team play Australia in a four-day match starting at St George's Park on Friday.

Cullinan, along with Jacques Rudolph, Graeme Smith, Gulam Bodi and wicketkeeper Thami Tsolekile, has been retained from the `A' team which drew with Australia before the first Test match last week.

After the stunning innings and 360-run defeat in the first Test match at the Wanderers on Sunday, there are bound to be changes in the Test team. That South African cricket needs to re-examine its policies and strategies is also clear, but for the moment the priority is to find an eleven capable of competing with Australia.

The lack of fight shown by the South Africans at the Wanderers indicates that the wounds suffered during the 3-0 series defeat run deeper than might have been thought. It is a surelyu no accident that one of the few South African players to come out of the Wanderers Test with credit was new cap Ashwell Prince.

Cullinan missed selection for Australia partly because he had undergone surgery during the off-season but also because of his poor record against Australia. He averages 44.21 from 70 Test matches, but against Australia this record drops to 12.75 from seven.

At the same time, he was South Africa's premier batsman throughout the 1990s, had an excellent series in the West Indies last year and remains one of the most astute thinkers about the game in South Africa.

Along with Cullinan, Rudolph and Smith have been given a second chance against Australia while Martin van Jaarsveld, who scored 340 in two innings without being dismissed in his last provincial game, and Hashim Amla, the South African under 19 captain, have also been included.

The two Test players probably under most threat are Boeta Dippenaar and Nicky Boje and in the latter's case he could be challenged by Bodi (left-arm wrist spin) and Eastern Province captain Robin Peterson (left-arm orthodox).

In the wake of Allan Donald's retirement from Test cricket, South Africa hope to have Shaun Pollock back for the second Test, but good showings from the `A' team's new ball pairing of Charl Willoughby and Dewald Pretorius could bring them into contention.

South African `A' team:

Jacques Rudolph (Northerns), Graeme Smith (WP), Martin van Jaarsveld (Northerns), Daryll Cullinan (Capt, Gauteng), Hashim Amla (KZN), Justin Kemp (EP), Robin Peterson (EP), Gulam Bodi (KZN), Thami Tsolekile (WP), Dewald Pretorius (FS), Charl Willoughby (WP). Twelfth man: Garnett Kruger (EP).