Stephen Cook will be in the spotlight in the second Test against Australia in Hobart as the only South African batsman still to prove himself on this tour. Apart from Amla, Cook was the only other member of the line-up who did not get a score over 20 in the first Test in Perth. Fellow opener Dean Elgar believes Cook will be desperate to set that straight.
"I'm sure if I was in that position I'd be a bit frustrated because as a player in this environment you want to make a contribution. And I know a guy who's just started his international career wants to make a big play for South Africa," Elgar said. "Everybody shares his frustrations. As his opening partner, I share his frustrations with him. I am frustrated on his behalf. Hopefully he can feed off the good form of us winning the first Test and make a big play for us in the second Test."
Cook's problem is not so much the lack of runs as it is the method of dismissal. In the first innings, he fronted up to a hostile opening over from Mitchell Starc and was caught in the slips off the fourth ball. In the second, he lasted an hour and 13 minutes before pulling a bouncer to short midwicket.
Starc exploited a weakness that has showed in Cook's game throughout this tour. In the two warm-up matches before the series, too, Cook was dismissed caught behind, prompting work on his trigger movement and foot positioning. Neil McKenzie, South Africa's batting consultant and a long-time team-mate of Cook's at the Lions domestic franchise, worked with the opener on staying on the ball of his front foot, so that he would splay the foot, open the back hip and not get caught playing down the wrong line. Cook was unable to rectify that in time for Perth but is likely to get another chance in Hobart, despite the presence of Rilee Rossouw in the squad.
Rossouw's fine form in the one-day series at home against Australia - he scored 311 runs in five matches - earned him a spot in the Test touring party but it is unlikely he will play unless there is an injury. "Rilee is a different dynamic player. He's a bit more of a middle-order player. He's not really an opening batsman. His role is a lot different to Cookie," Elgar said. "He will bring in another dynamic of aggression. That's the way he approaches his cricket. I don't think Rilee is going to be needed just yet."
Another option before South Africa is to push Quinton de Kock up and use Rossouw in the middle order but they may be wary of adding to de Kock's workload or making a rash decision on Cook. The 33-year old waited more than a decade to play international cricket and has only played in four Tests. After a century on debut, he also scored fifty against New Zealand in August and is likely to be given a longer run to show what he can do.
It helps that Elgar has cemented himself in the role and has graduated to some level of seniority. No longer seen as the new kid, he has even earned the respect of the Australia side after his Perth hundred. Josh Hazlewood called him "a bit of a grinder and very patient" and put him in the category of batsmen whose wicket you have to work for. Elgar will take that. "That's just my nature, to try and irritate the opposition. I'm not practising it. It just comes naturally," he said. "If that's the way they feel about it, it's not a bad thing."