The news from the national selectors in the wake of South Africa being massacred by Australia at Centurion is that the debate over the balance of the side has been reopened but Proteas fans should not expect widespread changes for the second Test starting in Port Elizabeth on Thursday.
“From a personnel point of view, we have no doubt that the 15 chosen for the series is the right group of players. Massive selection changes will not sort out the problem, which was application – by the players’ own admission they did not play as well as they could,” convenor of selectors Andrew Hudson said yesterday.
“There may be a change, a tweak from within that squad, but it’s unlikely we’ll bring anyone in from outside that group. We weren’t unhappy with Ryan McLaren, but it has just reopened the debate about the balance of the side. Do we play seven batsmen or a spinner, it’s about the balance for Port Elizabeth.”
While McLaren can quite rightly protest that he performed the role expected of him with the ball, while there were glaring failures all around him, it seems the selectors are toying with the idea of following Australia’s gamble of only playing three seamers and a frontline spinner.
“Australia went in batting-heavy and played three seamers and a spinner. Perhaps we’ll play a batsman at seven and then have three quicks and Robin Peterson.
“But that does leave you hanging a bit if the spinner gets hit out of the attack or there’s an injury. That’s the dilemma: having the all-rounder at seven as insurance or backing four bowlers to do the job like Australia does,” Hudson admitted.
Australia’s march to victory was very much achieved on the back of Mitchell Johnson, however, and the South African batsmen played the other touring bowlers with relative comfort. South Africa don’t have a Johnson and the Australian batsmen have already shown a liking to Peterson, which could leave their attack incredibly vulnerable.
Hudson also admitted that JP Duminy, who successfully blocked out Johnson in the first innings and then fell to an extraordinary catch at short-leg off his bowling in the second innings, would come under discussion.
“JP’s place in the team – we’d need to chat about that and whether the top six are doing what we expect from them. JP hasn’t had great form but he is a quality player and he’s done well against Australia before. There’s no doubt he’s a class player,” Hudson said.