JOHANNESBURG – The men’s Proteas team started anew last season when Mark Boucher and Enoch Nkwe began coaching the team, so it was unlikely they were going to do anything radical in terms of selection for the side’s first action in over eight months.
Last summer’s team was, as newly appointed national convener of selectors Victor Mpitsang called it, “an inexperienced” one, and those players were deserving of further opportunities. That is especially so given that South Africa’s last set of performances on a cricket field, before the Covid-19 pandemic hit, was to win, against Australia in a three-match One-Day series.
There was no need to toss aside Kyle Verrynne – even less so given how well he batted in the opening Four-Day Series match of the 2020/21 season for the Cape Cobras this week – and the likes of Pite van Biljon, Reeza Hendricks and Heinrich Klaasen for the series against England.
The three T20 Internationals and the three-match One-Day series offer the chance to get back into the rhythm of international cricket.
The restrictions of the ‘bio bubble’ adds an extra challenge for the players, the majority of whom will have had just two competitive matches, which necessitated the need for 24 players.
“With the bio-secure environment where movement in and out of the squad will be limited, we had to make sure that we have all our bases covered with the 24 players,” said Mpitsang.
“It also gives the team the opportunity to play some intersquad games just to make sure that they sharpen up those white-ball skills before the series starts.”
The Proteas will be extremely reliant on the IPL contingent, Faf du Plessis, Quinton de Kock, Kagiso Rabada and Anrich Nortje who are in ‘white ball rhythm’.
England have a huge advantage in that they’re battle hardened, with most of their players having played a full home season of international cricket and a fair number including skipper skipper Eoin Morgan, quick bowler Jofra Archer, Ben Stokes, Jos Buttler and Jonny Bairstow having also featured in this year’s IPL.
Of course, the major challenge is maintaining a high level of performance while training and playing in a ‘bio bubble.’
For those English players, who had a home summer and then participated in the IPL, it’s been many months in which their movement has been restricted and they’ve had to go through Covid tests. The mental fatigue that causes must be extreme. Stokes, Archer and Sam Curran will play no part in the One-Day series, with the England management citing the need to keep them fresh.
With the exception of the players who’ve been in the IPL, South Africa won’t have that challenge, and it is an undercurrent to the series that could be key to the outcome.
Quinton de Kock (capt), Temba Bavuma, Junior Dala, Faf du Plessis, Bjorn Fortuin, Beuran Hendricks, Reeza Hendricks, Heinrich Klaasen, George Linde, Keshav Maharaj, Janneman Malan, David Miller, Lungi Ngidi, Anrich Nortje, Andile Phehlukwayo, Dwaine Pretorius, Kagiso Rabada, Tabraiz Shamsi, Lutho Sipamla, Jon-Jon Smuts, Glenton Stuurman, Pite van Biljon, Rassie van der Dussen, Kyle Verreynne.
England men’s Tour to South Africa
Nov 27: 1st T20I South Africa v England, Newlands (6pm)
Nov 29: 2nd T20I South Africa v England, Boland Park (2.30pm)
Dec 1: 3rd T20I South Africa v England, Newlands (6pm)
Dec 4: 1st ODI South Africa v England, Newlands (1pm)
Dec 6: 2nd ODI South Africa v England, Boland Park (10am)
Dec 9: 3rd ODI South Africa v England, Newlands (1pm)