Don’t write the Proteas off ahead of their series against England starting at Centurion on Dec 26.
Sure, the Proteas have had multiple off-field issues to deal with of late. They are also woefully out of form having lost their last 5 straight tests and the last three by a big margin.
There are however a few causes for optimism.
Firstly, England have some problems of their own. They aren’t exactly in the best form themselves having lost the Ashes at home and a series to New Zealand. Captain Joe Root is struggling for runs and if you look at the rest of the batting order, it is not exactly intimidating. Ben Stokes is always dangerous but he may be ruled out as his father is in intensive care in hospital having sadly fallen ill during his visit to South Africa. We wish Stokes and his family the best at this time.
Secondly, aside from Stokes, England have a few injury problems. James Anderson is coming back from an injury and may be a little rusty, Joffra Archer has been ill and Chris Woakes is listed as doubtful. Not ideal preparations for a test match you will agree.
Thirdly, the Proteas last-minute, but much needed change in management/coaching structure is likely to give the team a lift. There are some tough characters in the coaching mix now with Graeme Smith and Mark Boucher pulling the strings and Charl Langeveldt and Jacques Kallis adding some measured advice. Their enthusiasm and experience should rub off on the team and help rejuvenate some of its damaged spirit.
Finally, there have also been some positive changes made to the make-up of the side. I like Zubayr Hamza being given a proper chance and Rassie van der Dussen in at 5 should add some grit to the batting line up. Rassie doesn’t give his wicket away easily – something that has been a problem with the SA batting of late. Experienced batsmen like Faf du Plessis and Quinton de Kock will need to step up to allow the newcomers to play with more freedom. Our bowling department has never been a problem. There is plenty of pace and variety coming from Anrich Nortje, Kagiso Rabada, Vernon Philander, Keshav Maharaj and Dwaine Pretorius.
If the Proteas can find a way to contain the threat of Archer – on SA’s bouncy wickets no less – they are in with a decent chance.
Expected SA line up:
Faf du Plessis
Rassie van der Dussen
Quinton de Kock