Whilst one-day cricket will be on the minds of cricket fans all over the world with the World Cup coming up in February 2015, attention will for a short moment shift to test cricket.
The Proteas take on the West Indies in a three-match test series starting on 17 December in Centurion and ending with the traditional New Year’s test match at Newlands from 2 – 6 January 2015. The second test match starts on Boxing Day in Port Elizabeth.
In 2007 Port Elizabeth was the scene of the West Indies’ one and only triumph over the Proteas on South African soil. The hosts, however, made amends in the rest of the series and comfortably won the next two test matches – by 7 wickets and an innings and 100 runs respectively.
On the West Indies’ first tour to South Africa in 1998/9 the Proteas whitewashed them in a five-match series. In 2000 the Sir Vivian Richards Trophy was introduced for test series between the two countries and South Africa has never relinquished the trophy since its inception. The Proteas won the 2003/4 four-match series 3 – 0. (The drawn match in the series at Newlands will be remembered for producing no fewer than seven centuries!) The Windies’ overall record in South Africa is poor: played 12, won 1, lost 10, drew 1.
For a very long time the Proteas’ test team picked itself. However, over the past twelve months Jacques Kallis and Graeme Smith have retired and JP Duminy is injured. It is therefore almost surreal to have a few selection discussions for the Proteas’ test team.
Quinton de Kock did enough in the Proteas’ three mid-year test matches (two against Sri Lanka and one against Zimbabwe) to be assured of his place in the side as a middle-order batsman and wicketkeeper. Alviro Petersen, Dean Elgar, Hashim Amla, AB de Villiers, Faf du Plessis, Vernon Philander, Morne Morkel and Dale Steyn are certain starters too. This leaves two spots up for grabs.
Duminy’s unavailability affects the balance of the test team. He could have played as the sole spinner in the side, leaving the selectors with the temptation to play seven specialist batsman and four fast bowlers. But it is always a big risk to go into any test match without a regular spin-bowler. Robin Peterson is the only spinner in the squad and should get the nod ahead of the squad’s fourth seamer, Kyle Abbott. Peterson is also a better batsman than Abbott. He and Philander should be the no.’s 8 & 9.
The remaining vacancy in the line-up is at no.7. The selectors have picked two candidates in the squad, Stiaan van Zyl and Temba Bavuma. Van Zyl is the obvious choice. He was in the touring party to Sri Lanka and Zimbabwe although he never played. Unfortunately he hasn’t played much cricket this summer (due in part to an untimely thigh injury) but last season scored 933 runs (at an average of 58) in first-class cricket.
Irrespective of the combination the selectors decide on, the Proteas should have too much ammunition for the West Indies. Of course they cannot afford to underestimate the tourists but if both teams play to their full potential, the Proteas should win. Neither the Windies’ past nor their current form suggests that they will be a threat to the hosts.