Proteas make three changes for second Test and will bat first
Graeme Smith and Michael Clarke
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A 21-year-old wicketkeeper who recently scored three consecutive one-day centuries against India was abruptly given a Test debut as South Africa waited until seconds before the toss to finalise its team for the second Test against Australia in Port Elizabeth.
South Africa captain Graeme Smith won the toss at St George’s Park and elected to bat in overcast conditions.
Test debutant Quinton de Kock only joined the Proteas squad on Wednesday evening, because opening batsman Alviro Petersen was struggling with a virus. By Thursday morning the dashing left-hander was confirmed as one of three inclusions, alongside batsman Dean Elgar and left-armer paceman Wayne Parnell. Petersen and Ryan McLaren (concussion) were both unavailable, while left-arm spinner Robin Petersen was axed as part of the home team’s bid to bolster its batting order.
Australia, as expected, chose an unchanged team.
Just before Smith exchanged teamsheets with Australia captain Michael Clarke before the toss he was seen making a change to the line-up. The trigger for that was an injury cloud over seamer Vernon Philander, which lingered long enough that Smith had to wait until he put on his ceremonial team blazer for the toss to learn of the 28-year-old’s availability.
“Vernon woke up this morning and felt a little niggle, so we weren’t quite sure what was going on there. I just got a message as I was putting my blazer on,” Smith said when interviewed after the toss. “The drama is sorted out, I think – Vernon is ready to go.”
With South Africa winning the toss and batting, Philander will have longer to recover from the “niggle” he felt earlier in the day.
The Proteas’ decision to axe Petersen will leave part-timer J.P. Duminy as their primary spinner, with left-arm finger-spinner Elgar expected to offer support.
De Kock made his first-class debut just after his 17th birthday, in late 2009. In the 20 first-class matches he has played he has scored four centuries, at an average of 48.87. His strike-rate of 85.11 – 85 runs for every 100 balls faced – is indicative of his aggressive approach in even the longest form of the game.
Earlier this month de Kock was the stand-out batsman in the invitational squad chosen to face South Africa’s Test-strength XI in its warm-up match before the series against Australia, scoring a plucky half-century as his team crumbled against the renowned Proteas attack on a difficult Wanderers Stadium pitch.
Elgar was chosen to partner Smith at the top of South Africa’s batting order. While de Kock’s arrival gave the home team the option of allowing A.B. de Villiers to relinquish the wicketkeeping gloves and return to the Proteas’ slips cordon he was listed on the team sheet as the gloveman, with de Kock to play as a specialist number-seven batsman.
While Elgar’s previous Test experience against Australia was torrid – he scored a pair on debut in Perth last season, and was the substitute fielder who dropped David Warner on 26 last week – Australia captain Clarke said on Wednesday he had seen enough of the 26-year-old beyond that pair in Perth to know he should not be underestimated.
“He’s performed very well in first-class cricket in South Africa. He hasn’t had that much of an opportunity in Test cricket. I think he’s a very good player, he’s got all the shots,” Clarke said.
“We’ve certainly had a look at footage of him playing and know his strengths and weaknesses. Hopefully … we can combat his weaknesses and keep his runs to as few as possible for the Test match.”
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