South Africa will have to choose between feisty and fast for the second Test against Australia in Port Elizabeth. With Ryan McLaren ruled out with concussion, the No.7 spot has opened up again and it seems one of Wayne Parnell or Dean Elgar will be asked to fill it.
Peter Siddle expects it to be Parnell, who he thought to be next in line. Others in the Australia camp have indicated they think South Africa would add a specialist batsman to their XI. And South Africa themselves still seem undecided.
“Wayne has been bowling quickly and he is also left-arm so it’s a nice option for us,” Morne Morkel said. “And Dean is like a staffie. He is tough as nails. If he gets the nod, he will be up for it but I’m as excited as you to see who they go for.”
Essentially, the choice is between a bowling allrounder or a specialist batsmen but Hugh Page, a former selector, believes they could both be included, at the expense of Robin Peterson. “I would like to have four seamers and make JP Duminy the main spinner. Then you have Parnell for McLaren and a specialist batsmen,” Page told ESPNcricinfo.
Although Page’s first-choice for the batting job would be Quinton de Kock, South Africa’s selectors will work within the parameters of the squad which leaves Elgar as their only choice.
“We need to have a good partnership to see how Australia’s bowlers respond after spending a long time in the field,” Page said. “The only batsmen who really showed they can play quick bowling in Centurion were Hashim Amla, AB de Villiers and then Vernon Philander.”
With Philander’s batting earning the praise of both Page and former convener of selectors Mike Procter, the voices are growing louder for him to become South Africa’s allrounder. Page was involved with selection when Philander first came through and said he remembers him being “a genuine allrounder, who then got picked on bowling, so that became his focus.”
But beyond his skills, Page said Philander’s attitude is what stood out for him. “We should get him up the order because it’s not in his nature to run away from anyone,” he said. “When you’re playing Australia, you’ve got to have a few street-fighters in your side because Australia are bullies and they can get on top of you, you have to people who can counter that. You can’t go to a gunfight with a pellet gun.”
Parnell, despite worries over inconsistency, is seen as having a similarly strong persona, which combined with his pace would lead Page to put him in the XI. “He’ll bring some variation because he is a left-armer and if he gets it right, he could be really good.”
What South Africa are looking for is someone who can “front up” as Morne Morkel described it and show some heart. For that reason, Elgar is too often dismissed and talk of the pair he picked up on debut in Perth begins again. But Morkel indicated Elgar has a fair amount of fight in him to have got past that, just as South Africa have moved on from the Mitchell Johnson treatment of last week.
“We had a meeting today and it was very productive session,” Morkel said. “We are the No.1 team in the world and its important to stand up and react to what happened last weekend. We know its going to be tough. We just have clarity in our minds.”