Petersen determined to retain national spot
Petersen is the man in possession of the opening berth but after Rudolph topped the SuperSport series rankings last season, started this one with a pair of half centuries for Titans against Knights and captained the South Africa A side on their trip to Zimbabwe, he has increasingly looked like usurping Petersen. Now, Petersen has issued his own statement of intent with scores of 186 and 64 for Lions against the Dolphins.
"I would hope I've done enough," Petersen told ESPNCricinfo at the Wanderers. "In the last eight months, I've played good cricket and that's the only thing I can go on."
Since making his Test debut in February last year, where he scored a century against India at Eden Gardens, Petersen has not reached the three-figure mark again. However, in eight Tests, he has notched up three half-centuries - one each against West Indies, Pakistan and India - and has an average of 33.64.
It's his record outside of South African colours that has been noticeable. Petersen spent the South African winter captaining county side Glamorgan and was their highest run-scorer with over 1000 runs in first-class cricket. Across all formats, he scored more than 2000 runs, becoming only the sixth player to achieve that feat for the Welsh side. His authoritative performance in the first match of the South African domestic season appears to be a follow on from his run at Glamorgan.
"It was a good challenge to go there in my first year and to captain a county," he said. "There was massive pressure and I wanted to lead from the front." Like many other South Africans, Petersen said his time in England had taught him more about cricket and he can take those lessons onto the international stage. "I learnt a lot about my game. Because there are no practice times, you have to learn in matches and I've learnt how to still score runs under pressure and how to still score runs when you haven't had a net," he said.
Petersen's stint in England coincided with Sri Lanka's tour there and he used the opportunity to pick up tips for how to deal with them when they visit South Africa for three Tests later this year. "I looked at what sort of attacks they go with, because England and South African conditions, they are not the same but are similar in terms of the ball moving around," he said. "I'm sure when Sri Lanka come we will have some greener wickets for them, just like England had. I've had a look at their strategies, how they go about things and their combinations with their bowlers and I have built up my own sort of idea about how I want to go about it."
It was on the more sporting pitches in South Africa that Petersen was criticised for not being able to push on last season against India. After a solid 77 in Centurion, he did not score more than 26 in four other innings and started to be seen as a weak link. However, Petersen was not disappointed by his efforts, given the conditions.
"Our ploy was always to get green wickets against India in South Africa and that makes an opener's job a little but hard, so myself and Graeme [Smith] had to really knuckle down hard," he said. "He didn't score any runs in that series either. It was hard work." Smith scored 143 runs in the three matches, while Petersen managed 170 and the pair shared in one century partnership and two half-century stands.
With similarly hostile strips to be expected this summer, Petersen is prepared to post more, if his showing at the Wanderers is anything to go by. On a green top, with the ball moving around significantly, Petersen saw off the first session with Stephen Cook and once he had steered himself to safety, cashed in. His innings showed the value of experience, something he wants to take into his international game.
He is determined to continue opening with Smith and is of the view that the two form a complimentary pair, not just because of their right-left combination. "Graeme is attacking and so am I. So often you can have an attacking batter and a guy who stabilises and it doesn't work out because you can't put pressure on bowlers as a unit," he said. "I think myself and Graeme do that well. We showed it against Pakistan , where we had a 150-run partnership and it brought the middle order into play so guys can play freely after that."
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent