Opening batsman dilemma for Proteas

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At the conclusion of last summer it was widely assumed Stiaan van Zyl would slot into the spot that opened up following Alviro Petersen’s retirement and in fact the selectors even went as far as giving Van Zyl the chance to open for the SA A side against England, while his franchise the Cape Cobras did the same in the latter stages of the Sunfoil Series.

However with De Villiers missing the two Tests against Bangladesh because his wife, Danielle, is due to give birth to the couple’s first child, the selectors have been forced to look elsewhere, calling Reeza Hendricks into the Test squad and leaving open the possibility that Van Zyl, who has batted at No3 for most of his career domestically, will fill De Villiers’ spot at No4 in the order. Temba Bavuma will also merit consideration when the final XI for the first Test starting on July 21 is picked.

Hendricks has opened the innings for most of his professional career and got a taste of the international scene last year when he played three T20s against Australia. He has been a regular in the SA A side too.

Whether Hendricks opening is a short term measure will largely depend on his results in Bangladesh. Were he to be successful, it would be hard to ignore him for the bigger assignments which await SA later in the year against India and then England.

As is always the case, there are some players unlucky not to have made the side, the most prominent – and especially given the needs at the top of the order – being Stephen Cook, the leading scorer in the Sunfoil Series last summer notching up five centuries in the process.

Aaron Phangiso, largely viewed as more suited to the limited overs formats, is a surprising inclusion in the Test squad especially as he played just one match in the four-day competition last summer. However he is unlikely to start unless there is an injury with Simon Harmer, who made such an impressive debut against the West Indies last season and if needs be JP Duminy, sharing the spinning duties. Dane Piedt who returned to injury at the tail end of last season, was surprisingly not considered.

Given De Villiers’ absence it’s not a shock to see Dane Vilas in the squad as back up to Quinton de Kock. Vilas has been a consistent performer with the Cobras and last season weighed in with 499 runs in the four-day format, with a century and three fifties.

Kagiso Rabada’s inclusion is not a surprise given the giant strides he made last summer – going from the under-19 side to gaining a T20 International cap in Australia in a matter of months. Rabada, who turned 20 a few days ago, is unlikely to feature in the two Tests unless there is an injury, but he should get a start in one of the ODIs especially given Dale Steyn’s absence.

The selectors have recalled Ryan McClaren and Chris Morris for the three-match ODI series, but it is in the T20 group where there are some significant developments. David Wiese and Lions leg-spinner Eddie Leie will want to impress in the year ahead of the World T20s in India.

Leie, 28, has come on in leaps and bounds and was an important cog in the Lions side that annexed the Sunfoil Series last season, while the variety he possesses, which saw him claim 14 wickets in 11 matches, played an important role in their run to the playoff of the RamSlam T20.

Wiese became an unlikely star for the Bangalore Royal Challengers in the IPL, and will want to replicate the form he showed for them – with both bat and ball – at international level too. Sould he succeed he could become a crucial member of the side for next year’s World T20. - The Star

The absence of AB de Villiers from the South Africa side to play two Tests against Bangladesh has given the Proteas selectors a bit of a headache.

Original source: Opening batsman dilemma for Proteas

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