The England series will be Mark Boucher’s first assignment since his appointment last week. Picture: BACKPAGE PIX
The England series will be Mark Boucher’s first assignment since his appointment last week. Picture: BACKPAGE PIX

And so the bumper Test season is upon South Africans‚ with England already engaged in a warm-up game against a Cricket SA XI in Benoni.

The SA Test and A squads were announced on Monday‚ with the Test squad having six new call-ups. New team director Mark Boucher and company have less than two weeks to find out what works and what doesn’t.

SA A will be up against England from Friday to Sunday, while a set of four-day franchise series games take place from Thursday to Sunday. Here are how the six newbies rank and how close they are to a Test debut:

 

Pieter Malan (Cape Cobras)

Pieter Malan is clean bowled during a 4-Day Franchise Series game in October. Picture: RYAN WILKISKY/BACKPAGEPIX
Pieter Malan is clean bowled during a 4-Day Franchise Series game in October. Picture: RYAN WILKISKY/BACKPAGEPIX

He isn’t the David Warner or Rohit Sharma type of opener most Test teams crave‚ but his type of agenda-setting is the sort that wins Tests. Malan gets in‚ gets set and goes big. Strike rates shouldn’t be an issue in Test matches‚ but Malan’s been unfairly painted as a go-slow opener.

There are 15 sessions in a Test and each team requires an opener who can bat for at least five of them. Malan has showed at franchise level‚ especially last season with his 821 runs‚ that he can bat long and bat big. If there’s a berth at the top‚ he has to be the next cab off the rank.

Rassie van der Dussen (Lions)

For those who think Van der Dussen is a white-ball show pony‚ he once top scored in the 2017/2018 four-day competition with 959 runs. That’s top-notch batting‚ whichever way you look at it.

The past two seasons have seen less red-ball involvement because of his white-ball exploits‚ which have landed him in the national team.

Rassie van der Dussen has piled on the runs in the past few seasons and was SA’s most composed batsman at the Cricket World Cup. Picture: MUZI NTOMBELA/BACKPAGEPIX
Rassie van der Dussen has piled on the runs in the past few seasons and was SA’s most composed batsman at the Cricket World Cup. Picture: MUZI NTOMBELA/BACKPAGEPIX

He was SA’s most composed and best batsman at the disastrous Cricket World Cup. Should he get a middle-order chance‚ which is a possibility now that Theunis de Bruyn has been dropped‚ that composure can and should be transferred to the Test arena.

Rudi Second (Warriors)

Second could have and should have made his Test debut in India if it weren’t for injury. By virtue of being a wicketkeeper‚ he moves to the front of the queue in the event Quinton de Kock needs to relinquish.

Rudi Second in action for the Warriors during a 4-Day Franchise Series game in Port Elizabeth on October 22 2019. Picture: DERYCK FOSTER/BACKPAGE PIX
Rudi Second in action for the Warriors during a 4-Day Franchise Series game in Port Elizabeth on October 22 2019. Picture: DERYCK FOSTER/BACKPAGE PIX

While he hasn’t had the same weight of domestic runs as Malan and Van der Dussen‚ he’s a heavy SA A scorer‚ which counts more in the eyes of the selectors.

Keeping duties means he could be employed as a middle- to lower-order batsman‚ but he’s an accomplished willow wielder who can bat anywhere.

Dane Paterson (Cape Cobras)

Over the past two seasons‚ he’s proved himself to be the best reserve fast bowler. With Duanne Olivier throwing in his lot with a Kolpak contract‚ a spot has opened up, and Paterson is best primed to take that up.

Dane Paterson of the Cobras in action during a 4-Day Franchise Series game on October 28 2019. Picture: GRANT PITCHER/GALLO IMAGES
Dane Paterson of the Cobras in action during a 4-Day Franchise Series game on October 28 2019. Picture: GRANT PITCHER/GALLO IMAGES

He was the best paceman in four-day cricket, with 34 wickets last season and has also been among the wickets this season. Anrich Nortjé had an unimpressive debut in India but he stands ahead in the queue. Paterson deserves to be here.

Beuran Hendricks (Lions)

Now that he’s shrugged off his injury issues‚ he’s starting to find the rhythm that made him such a flavour of the season. His swing and pace variations collected 32 wickets for him in red-ball cricket last year but‚ like Van der Dussen‚ he’s already proved himself as a white-ball player.

Beuran Hendricks would bring variety to the team with his left-arm swing bowling. Picture: DERYCK FOSTER/BACKPAGEPIX
Beuran Hendricks would bring variety to the team with his left-arm swing bowling. Picture: DERYCK FOSTER/BACKPAGEPIX

SA needs his left-arm pace variations given that England struggled with Trent Boult in New Zealand.

Dwaine Pretorius (Lions)

Pretorius hasn’t made the same waves as the rest in domestic cricket but has shown enough cricket gumption.

As the Mzansi Super League final showed‚ his batting is his stronger suit and can play as a batsman alone. Whether his pace will be enough to gain a Test place as a bona fide all-rounder is another story‚ but he’s got the batting goods.