Russel Domingo, South Africa’s coach, exuded confidence ahead of his team’s Boxing Day Test match against Sri Lanka starting on Monday (December 26) at St. George’s Park in Port Elizabeth. South Africa, who enjoyed tremendous success in their recent tour down under, won the three-match Test series against Australia 2-1. Prior to that, the Proteas had also won their home series against New Zealand 1-0.
South Africa have added batsman, Theunis de Bruyn, along side left-arm pacer Wayne Parnell to the squad that toured Australia. However, changes to South Africa’s playing eleven that featured in the final Test against Australia in Adelaide is unlikely.
“We’ve only decided to pick 13 for this series. It gives us a few less selection problems and gives the incumbents a sense of security and they can focus really hard on their preparation and not worry too much about selection. It just makes it a lot clearer and a lot more simplistic,” Domingo said ahead of their first training session in Port Elizabeth on Thursday (December 22).
“It’s a big series for us. We have been playing some good Test match cricket of late and to continue that form and the brand of cricket that we want to play is of paramount importance for us.
“The guys love coming to Port Elizabeth. We feel that the wicket suits us to a degree. The ball tends to reverse swing here because of the abrasive wicket which helps our seamers. If there is a little bit of an Easterly or overhead conditions, we are able to exploit those conditions as well.
“It’s never historically been a fast wicket, it’s a wicket where you have to be patient and you have to grind out runs. That’s the strength of this particular side, our levels of patience and being able to withstand those types of periods,” said the head coach.
Quinton de Kock, South Africa’s top run-getter in One-Day Internationals (ODIs) this year, was named the ICC ODI Cricketer of the year on Thursday (December 22). The 24-year-old left-hander enjoyed immense success in the longer format too, scoring his maiden Test ton this year, while amassing 589 runs at an average of 65.44 in 2016.
“Everyone is very proud of him. He has had an outstanding 12 months,” Domingo said. “About a year and a half ago, he was left out of the Test side when we were in Bangladesh and he has showed some real good character to come back. He is in phenomenal form at the moment and everyone is really pleased for him.”
South Africa’s talismanic batsman, AB de Villiers is all set to miss his third successive Test series as he continues to recover from his elbow injury. He had also recently stepped down as the Test captain, backing his teammate Faf du Plessis to take over the role on a permanent basis.
“Everybody wants to stay in the team but naturally they know that AB is one of the best batsmen in the world, and when he is fit and after he has played a few matches and proved his fitness, naturally he will come back into the team,” Domingo said. “That’s just the way it is – someone has to make space for him because he’s an outstanding player.”
Domingo hailed the presence of the younger members in the squad, who have turned up and performed really well in South Africa’s recent outings. He also credited his side’s success to the depth of the resources in the squad.
“Players will always feel part of the team once they start producing the goods. They will always feel they are a valued member and worthy of playing for their country once they produce the goods in the team.
“Stephen Cook has two Test hundreds in six matches, Kagiso Rabada has won Test matches for us, Temba Bavuma has won Test matches for us. Those young players, once they perform, feel like they belong and that takes a lot of pressure off them and allows them to free up and put in more of those performances.”
South Africa will play a three-match Test series against Sri Lanka, besides playing three Twenty20 Internationals (T20Is) and five One-Day Internationals (ODIs).
Squad: Faf du Plessis (capt), Kyle Abbott, Hashim Amla, Temba Bavuma, Stephen Cook, Theunis de Bruyn, Quinton de Kock, JP Duminy, Dean Elgar, Keshav Maharaj, Wayne Parnell, Vernon Philander, Kagiso Rabada