Second chance for batter Theunis de Bruyn
Slow pitches for Tests against Sri Lanka could aid his return to form
Theunis de Bruyn has received a stay of execution and will be part of SA’s Test squad for the two-match series against Sri Lanka.
The series starts in Durban on Wednesday with the following Test in Port Elizabeth — venues with slow pitches that could aid a return to form for De Bruyn — if he finds a spot in the starting XI.
De Bruyn was tossed and turned like a readymade steak by Pakistan’s superb bowling attack even though SA won the series 3-0.
A Sri Lankan bowling attack minus its best and fastest bowlers in Nuwan Pradeep‚ Dushmantha Chameera and Lahiru Kumara will pose a smaller challenge for the talented but intense De Bruyn.
The tall right-hander‚ who plies his first-class trade for the Titans‚ is an immensely talented top-order batsman with all the shots in the book and the temperament to match. However‚ he does not quite exude the sense of enjoyment his teammates gave despite the stern examination by Pakistan’s bowlers.
In the six innings across the three Tests that were played on admittedly difficult surfaces at SuperSport Park‚ Newlands and the Wanderers‚ De Bruyn scratched around for 118 runs at an 18.66 average with a highest score of 49.
However‚ he was SA’s fifth-highest run scorer in a series that only produced two centuries, from Quinton de Kock and captain Faf du Plessis.
De Bruyn also scored a very good maiden Test 100 against Sri Lanka in difficult conditions in Colombo in 2018.
While talented Highveld Lions all-rounder Wiaan Mulder is a surprise but deserving inclusion after a rousing four-day franchise series return‚ an unsurprising omission‚ ostensibly on match fitness and World Cup grounds‚ is that of Lungi Ngidi.
The Titans fast bowler has recovered from a knee injury sustained in a T20 international against Australia in November 2018.
Ngidi recently said he is back to full fitness and should be available for the Momentum 1-Day Cup that starts on Friday.
Selection convenor Linda Zondi‚ though‚ has his eye on the World Cup and said it is better to ease Ngidi back to full fitness.
“Wiaan has been part of our strategic thinking in developing a batting all-rounder for the Test squad for some time. His injury in the white ball series against Zimbabwe last year  came at an unfortunate time and we are gradually working him back into the Proteas setup‚” Zondi said.
“For the same reason, we are not going to rush Lungi Ngidi back into international action until he has had the time to gain full match fitness.
“After the convincing victory against Pakistan, the selectors are looking to exercise consistency in the squad and at the same time to strengthen it through the inclusion of Mulder.”
Zubayr Hamza‚ who had an impressive debut in the third Test against Pakistan‚ is also in the squad and Du Plessis has served his one-Test suspension for an over-rate offence in the New Year’s Test against Pakistan.
Proteas Test squad
Faf du Plessis (Titans‚ capt)‚ Hashim Amla (Cape Cobras)‚ Temba Bavuma (Highveld Lions)‚ Theunis de Bruyn (Titans)‚ Quinton de Kock (Titans)‚ Dean Elgar (Titans)‚ Zubayr Hamza (Cape Cobras)‚ Keshav Maharaj (Dolphins)‚ Aiden Markram (Titans)‚ Wiaan Mulder (Highveld Lions)‚ Duanne Olivier (Knights)‚ Vernon Philander (Cape Cobras)‚ Kagiso Rabada (Highveld Lions)‚ Dale Steyn (Titans)