Opening batsman Heino Kuhn will be named in South Africa's Test squad to play in England next month, ESPNcricinfo has learnt.
Kuhn, who scored a century in the ongoing unofficial Test against the England Lions on the back of an unbeaten 200 against Hampshire last week, will be joined by his A squad team-mates Theunis de Bruyn, Temba Bavuma and Duanne Olivier but it remains to be seen if Stephen Cook will keep his place.
Cook was dropped for South Africa's last Test, against New Zealand in Hamilton, and was replaced by de Bruyn, a regular No. 3. Selection convener Linda Zondi confirmed in the aftermath that de Bruyn would not be considered for a permanent place the top two, which suggests his inclusion in the squad is as back-up, especially as South Africa are unsure if Faf du Plessis will play in the opening Test as he awaits the birth of his first child. That means Kuhn and Cook will be competing for the same spot.
Kuhn was 13th on the first-class run-charts last season with 527 runs at 43.91 with one hundred and three fifties but topped the list last summer. He scored 1126 runs at 62.55 with four hundreds and four fifties and missed out on selection after Cook, who had been the leading batsman the season before and in the top 10 for seven seasons prior to that, was preferred. Cook scored a century on debut and has two other hundreds to his name but has gone through lengthy lean patches, especially on away tours. He had scored just 75 runs in four innings before his hundred in Adelaide and 17 runs in four innings before being benched in New Zealand.
In preparation for the England series, Cook has been playing county cricket for Durham and has scored 348 runs in seven matches at 26.76 with two fifties. In contrast, his Test opening partner Dean Elgar has is the fifth-highest run-scorer overall in Division 1 and has notched up 517 runs at 47.00 for Somerset in six matches with two hundreds and two fifties.
In addition to his ability to open the batting, Kuhn will also more than likely serve as the back-up gloveman to Quinton de Kock. Though Kuhn no longer regularly keeps wicket for his franchise, the Titans, he has done the job for several of his 12 years as first-class cricketer and most recently donned the gloves for the entire domestic one-day cup when Heinrich Klaasen was called up for national duty in New Zealand. Kuhn's move from wicket-keeper batsman to specialist opener came last summer under Mark Boucher's guidance after Boucher identified the opener's spot as the only possible gap in the South African side.
Kuhn's selection suggests that South Africa will remain unsettled when it comes to their top two for a while yet. Neither Kuhn, who is 33, nor Cook, who is 34, can be considered a long-term solution but they may be placeholders for another member of the A side, who is expected to miss out this time. Aiden Markram captained the four-day side and scored a century against Hampshire and 71 in the first innings against the Lions but it appears he will have to wait his turn for a national call-up.
South Africa's Test squad will be announced at the conclusion of the A match against the Lions. The A team are headed towards a hefty defeat and after losing to Sussex and in the fifty-over series, there will be questions about the depth of South African cricket following a spate of Kolpak signings last summer.