JP finds his groove

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Last week, Hashim Amla was sitting in his hotel room in Durban consumed by the pressures of trying to turn around a seemingly sinking Proteas Test ship. Today, he is back home playing with his kids having unyoked himself from the leadership reins and content that he has left the national side in a better place after a “winning draw” against England at Newlands.

The core of the Proteas’ problems was a misfiring batting unit. That was rectified in emphatic fashion in Cape Town when, after the horrors of 2015, the senior core of Amla (201), new captain AB de Villiers (88) and Faf du Plessis (86) were back among the runs while Temba Bavuma (102 not out) and Chris Morris (69) also added a record-breaking 167 runs for the seventh wicket.

This infusion of confidence also seems to have flowed all the way down to the discards, with Cape Cobras duo JP Duminy and Dane Vilas sending loud messages to the national selectors that they should possibly reconvene before announcing the Test squad today for the remaining two Tests on the Highveld.

Though it might be a little too late for Vilas to oust Quinton de Kock from the wicket-keeping position, his undefeated 109 off 156 deliveries (12x4, 3x6) against a strong Highveld Lions attack yesterday at Boland Park will ensure he remains a part of the discussion.

The focus will instead be squarely on Duminy. His chanceless 153 not out off 260 balls (13x4) reminded everyone that he remains one of the most talented batsmen this country has produced. But, more importantly, that he still has the hunger and desire to work his way back into the Test squad by knuckling down in the tough situations.

The Cobras had lost both openers early – by the 11th over – and required their senior batsman to play an innings of substance. Through patience and good judgement – which have often been lacking at Test level – Duminy steered his franchise out of trouble and into a dominant position.

“JP batted really sweetly,” Cobras coach Paul Adams said. “He looked really good, comfortable both sides of the wicket and played straight very well. That’s always a good sign that JP is playing well.

“His balance looked really good at the crease and he is certainly back in form.

“The way he played spinners Eddie (Leie) and Phangi (Aaron Phangiso) was also very encouraging as he was comfortable sweeping and playing through the off-side.”

Adams also praised Vilas, especially for the way he took on the role of aggressor in the 171-run unbroken partnership for the Cobras fifth wicket.

“Dane played with a lot of positive intent. He came out with a real positive mindset. He basically just followed on from his 69 not out last week and is really hitting the ball nicely,” the Cobras coach said.

“He took a lot of pressure off JP by keeping the scoreboard moving along. We scored over 160 runs in that final session.”

Serious questions have been posed to national selection convenor Linda Zondi and his panel, especially as the Cobras duo have put a Lions attack that includes current Test squad paceman Hardus Viljoen and Proteas limited-overs spinners Leie and Phangiso to the sword.

“Hardus tried hard all day, ran in with good energy, but JP was comfortable throughout. He tried hitting the deck and bowled with good pace, but it was a day for the batsmen,” Adams added.

Meanwhile, at the Mangaung Oval in Bloemfontein, the other Test reserve batsman Rilee Rossouw (17) was part of a horrible Knights batting display as the central franchise was dismissed for just 76 by the Titans.

The Cobras will resume on 348/4 today in Paarl with both Duminy and Vilas still at the crease and ready to further their claims for a Test recall. - Cape Times

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