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Batting stocks thin as Proteas turn to Theunis de Bruyn for Australia tour

Batting stocks thin as Proteas turn to Theunis de Bruyn for Australia tour

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Johannesburg — The national selectors hope that Theunis de Bruyn will be the answer to some of the Proteas’ batting woes for their three-match Test series against Australia that starts in a month’s time.

De Bruyn was recalled to the Test squad on Monday and will almost certainly start at No 3 in the first match of the series, with Keegan Petersen missing the tour because of a torn hamstring. The 30-year-old played the last of his 12 Tests against India in 2019, when he was an injury replacement for Dean Elgar. De Bruyn, despite making truckloads of runs domestically, mostly for the Northerns Titans, never convinced at the highest level with the exception of one innings against Sri Lanka on a turning track in Colombo in 2018. In the second innings of that match he made his only Test hundred and his next highest score is 49.

However with batting stocks extremely thin in South African cricket, in light of Petersen’s injury the selectors had little choice but to turn back to De Bruyn, who possesses a tight technique, married to elegant strokemaking and a first class average of 41.83 from 79 matches.

“In terms of the experience we are looking for, Theunis ticked that box,” said the Proteas’ interim coach Malibongwe Maketa.

In terms of form, De Bruyn doesn’t have much to speak of in the Four-Day series; he batted just six times last season, and scored 214 runs, with 143 of those coming in one innings. He was more dominant in the One-Day Cup, scoring 418 runs at 60.

If that is the basis for his selection, one can’t really blame the selectors, because the options domestically are so limited. The Proteas have scored just two Test hundreds in the last year; both came in the second Test against New Zealand in Christchurch. Otherwise its largely been a struggle, and the potent Proteas bowling unit have had very little to work with.

The selectors were delighted to be able to welcome back Rassie van der Dussen, who missed the last Test in England with a shattered knuckle on his left forefinger.

“It’s unfortunate, in that we have not been able to have consistency in selection, we’ve had batters who were injured, guys going to the IPL … so there’s not been that consistency in selection, to be able to pick up patterns,” said Maketa.

Chairman of selectors Victor Mpitsang highlighted the lack of experience in the batting unit. “The personnel we had in the last Test against England, we only had the experience of Dean … KP is still a young guy in Test cricket. At times when you don’t have the experience, guys do make mistakes,” said Mpitsang. “We are hoping that for a big series against Australia, that they can click, start well up front and that that can filter down (through the rest of the team).”

Only Temba Bavuma, who missed the series in England with an elbow injury, and Kagiso Rabada have been allowed a full break from playing ahead of the squad’s departure for Australia on December 1. Everyone else has to play at least one of the two remaining Four-Day series matches this month. However there is some confusion about Warriors duo Anrich Nortje, who has signed up to play in a T10 tournament, while it also still isn’t clear if Marco Jansen, who didn’t play in the T20 World Cup at all, will be allowed to feature in the Four-Day series.

“The plans have been laid out for them in terms of what they need to do so that they are ready for the first Test on December 17. Programmes have been given to them and after this week, they spend time with families, clear their heads and the next focus for them is Australia,” Maketa added.

Mpitsang cleared up some of the confusion around the inclusion of Keshav Maharaj, who picked up a groin injury in the World Cup, but will still tour Australia and Ryan Rickelton, who has an ankle problem, but who will still be able to play for his local province, the Lions.

“(Maharaj) is actually fit. He will play one of the Four Day games, he’ll be 100% fit by the time they leave. We have a group of players to select from, the medical team will give clearance for those players that are eligible. The (medical) report has stated that Rickelton is not fit to play against Australia. It’s a risk that the Lions are taking.”

Proteas Squad for Australia tour

Dean Elgar (capt), Temba Bavuma, Gerald Coetzee, Theunis de Bruyn, Sarel Erwee, Simon Harmer, Marco Jansen, Heinrich Klaasen, Keshav Maharaj, Lungi Ngidi, Anrich Nortje, Kagiso Rabada, Glenton Stuurman, Rassie van der Dussen, Kyle Verreynne, Khaya Zondo

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IOL Sport

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