Testing times for selectors of SA’s World Cup side
Does the domestic scene clarify or cloud matters for selectors? With all the centuries being scored, it’s complicated
Six players scored centuries in the first two games of this season’s franchise one-day competition, but only one of them is an odds-on bet to go to this year’s World Cup in England.
Welcome to the tricky task SA’s selectors face to fill any vacancies that may still loom in the final squad of 15. They will have to find answers to any remaining questions in the five-match ODI series against Sri Lanka, which starts at the Wanderers on March 3.
Who will fill the first-choice all-rounder’s berth is top of that list of queries, and is maybe the only uncertainty left.
One of the candidates, Wiaan Mulder, made his Test debut at St George’s Park on Thursday.
“He’s almost a like-for-like player with ‘Vern’, although he’s probably more of a batting all-rounder than a bowling all-rounder,” Faf du Plessis said in Port Elizabeth on Wednesday – before Mulder’s selection to replace the injured Vernon Philander was confirmed.
“Obviously we’ve spoken about him in one-day cricket as well. I see him really featuring for us as a batting all-rounder.
“He brings a lot of balance to our team.
“Moving forward with this Test team, you would like to see someone like Wiaan feature in it all the time.”
Du Plessis was talking in Test mode, but it says plenty about the high regard in which Mulder is held that his captain has such confidence in him.
Thing is, Mulder scored 28 in his only list A innings for the Lions and took 2/52 and 2/4. The latter stat aside, those aren’t the numbers of a World Cup wannabe.
So, does the domestic scene, which resumes on Friday, clarify or cloud matters for the selectors? It’s complicated.
Reeza Hendricks was probably bound for the World Cup before he made 130 for the Lions against the Dolphins in Pietermaritzburg on February 9, the highest score yet seen in the tournament this summer.
But Vaughn van Jaarsveld hammered 124 in the same match, and Tony de Zorzi, Kyle Verreynne, Keegan Petersen and Gihahn Cloete have also hit 100.
De Zorzi, who followed his unbeaten 115 for the Titans against the Knights at Centurion on February 10 with 89 against the Dolphins at the same ground a week later, is the leading run scorer.
Will he be at the World Cup? Probably not, and the same goes for Verreynne, Petersen and Cloete.
As good a start as those players have made to the campaign, most of SA’s World Cup batting line-up is engaged in the Test series against Sri Lanka.
At least the domestic stuff has confirmed to Linda Zondi and his panel that Lungi Ngidi is good to go.
Ngidi, who was out for a week short of three months with a knee injury sustained in November, has taken six wickets at an economy rate of 4.31 in two games for the Lions.
All the big fast bowler needed to do to earn his boarding pass for the trip to England in May was to prove his fitness, which he would seem to have done.
Better yet, he played both of his matches at Centurion, where two of the six centuries and seven of the 17 half-centuries have been hewn.
So, if you’re a batter with ambitions to go to the World Cup, try to get a crack at Centurion. But try, also, to avoid facing the Titans’ Ngidi.