Who will be the Proteas’ third seamer in the first Test against India?
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Johannesburg — “Bio Bubble” requirements mean the Proteas Test squad is a big one — 21 players — but in reality there is only one major question to be asked about the composition of the starting XI for the first Test against India.
Anrich Nortje and Kagiso Rabada will start — provided they are fit. The question, for selection convenor Victor Mpitsang and his panel is: Who will be the third frontline seamer in the attack?
Logic dictates that the selectors back form, and there is no bowler in better form right now, than Duanne Olivier. He is the leading wicket-taker in the domestic Four-Day Series, with his 28 wickets taken at an obscene average of 11.14. He’s a different bowler to the one, most South African — and even Indian — fans will remember. In 2019 before signing that Kolpak contract with Yorkshire, Olivier scared the daylights out of Pakistan by bouncing them out. He took 24 wickets in that three match series, and a reputation was entrenched.
But teammates at the Lions and Olivier himself, have claimed he’s a different bowler now. He needed to adapt in order to be more successful in England, and analysed Jimmy Anderson (who better?), so that he could make the necessary changes to his style and importantly strategy.
He still enjoys bowling the bouncer, but now uses it more judiciously, even at the Wanderers — which will host the second Test against India. “For now at the Wanderers, if you’re too short, I don’t think it is that effective, where if you’re fuller and test the bastmen’s technique all the time, I think you’ll pick up more rewards that way,” he said in a recent interview with IOL.
For the selectors, who understandably retained the core of the group that won in the Caribbean earlier this year, it will come down to either rewarding Olivier’s form, or backing Lungi Ngidi, who hasn’t bowled for five months. Sisanda Magala has a strong case too having taken 15 wickets as part of that potent Lions attack this season, while Glenton Stuurman, remains one of the most consistent performances, backing up the last couple of seasons with more good bowling this summer.
#Proteas SQUAD ANNOUNCEMENT 🚨— Cricket South Africa (@OfficialCSA) December 7, 2021
2️⃣ 1️⃣ players
Maiden Test call ups for Sisanda Magala and Ryan Rickelton 👍
Duanne Olivier returns 🇿🇦
Read more here ➡️ https://t.co/ZxBpXXvQy1#SAvIND #BetwayTestSeries #BePartOfIt pic.twitter.com/6rIDzt1PuO
But only eleven can start, and in Nortje, Rabada and Olivier, Proteas skipper Dean Elgar will have an explosive arsenal that will keep India under relentless pressure.
The batting unit virtually picks itself, with Keegan Petersen having done little wrong domestically to deserve being dropped. There may be some concern that he should have turned one of those three fifties he made for the Dolphins this season into a hundred, but no other batter, besides Ryan Rickelton, who has made two centuries for the Lions and is in the squad, has made a strong enough case for that no.3 spot.
Temba Bavuma who missed the series against the West Indies should slot back in at no.5, while Wiaan Mulder will know that he needs to produce greater output with the bat to cement that all-rounder spot. Seven wickets in the two matches he’s played for the Lions suggest his bowling is in reasonable shape, while it is also important to recall the value he provided in the field as part of the Proteas’ rejigged slips cordon that performed very well against the West Indies.
The Proteas squad will gather on December 18, a day after the Indian side arrives in the country.
The three match Test series will start at SuperSport Park on Boxing Day.
SQUAD: Dean Elgar (capt), Aiden Markram, Keegan Petersen, Rassie van der Dussen, Temba Bavuma, Wiaan Mulder, Quinton de Kock, Keshav Maharaj, Kagiso Rabada, Anrich Nortje, Duanne Olivier, Sarel Erwee, Beuran Hendricks, George Linde, Marco Jansen, Glenton Stuurman, Kyle Verreynne, Lungi Ngidi, Prenelan Subrayen, Sisanda Magala, Ryan Rickelton