Stephen Cook dropped as South Africa name 16-man squad for 4-Test Series vs England
What’s the story?
South Africa have named a 16-man squad for the four-match test series against England. Opener Stephen Cook, backup wicketkeeper Heinrich Klaasen, off-spinner Dane Piedt and bowling all-rounder Wayne Parnell have been dropped from the squad in favour of Aiden Markram, Heino Kuhn, Chris Morris and Andile Phehlukwayo. Faf du Plessis will captain the team for the four tests, with Dean Elgar named as the stand-in captain and captain for the practice game.
In case you didn’t know…
Stephen Cook’s poor run of form for his county Durham, and for South Africa against New Zealand, has rendered him without a place in the squad. He was dropped for the last test in favour of Theunis de Bruyn, despite de Bruyn’s usual batting spot in the middle order. Aidan Markram was South Africa’s winning under-19 captain in 2014 and is a talented batsman for the future.
Heino Kuhn’s double century in an unofficial game for South Africa A, as well as the consistently good performances at first class level make him an opener to look out for. He can also be a back-up wicketkeeper to De Kock. Faf du Plessis may not play the first test due to the birth of his child, and Markram and Kuhn could both find themselves with test caps.
Andile Phehlukwayo is a somewhat surprising pick, with a first class batting average of under 20 and a bowling average of more than 35. His inclusion in any of the four games is doubtful. Chris Morris would look to add to his two tests cap this series, and has shown promise with bat and ball in the past. Reaching past 145 kph on a regular basis and able to hit a long ball, Morris would be ideal on the flatter pitches that this series might offer.
He was withdrawn from the New Zealand test series to play first class cricket instead. Averaging 30+ with the bat and around 25 with the ball at the first class level, South Africa could use him as an allrounder, which would mean a batting line-up where everybody averages over 20.
The test squad is as follows:
Heino Kuhn (wk), Dean Elgar, Hashim Amla, Theunis de Bruyn, Aiden Markram, Faf du Plessis (capt.), Jean-Paul Duminy, Temba Bavuma, Quinton de Kock (wk), Chris Morris, Andile Phehlukwayo, Vernon Philander, Morne Morkel, Kagiso Rabada, Duanne Olivier, Keshav Maharaj.
The sole spinner in the team is Keshav Maharaj, an indication that South Africa will play JP Duminy at Lord's and the Oval, where the ball is known to turn. Dean Elgar, now a senior member of the team, was named as stand-in captain.
Stephen Cook (34), whose 11 test matches have yielded 632 runs at 33, has been dropped after a string of low scores. His age could have also been a factor. Dale Steyn’s injury means he won’t be playing in the series. This is one of the more inexperienced South African teams to tour England, with young players like Quinton de Kock, Kagiso Rabada, Duanne Olivier, Theunis de Bruyn and Keshav Maharaj almost certain to play in the starting XI.
The series starts with a four-day practice match at Worcester on the 29th of July, played between the England Lions, for which a strong team has been announced, and the South Africans, who will likely give the fringe members of the squad a go.
The Tests begin on the 6th of July at Lord’s. The parties then go to Trent Bridge for the second encounter on the 14th of July, back to London to play the 3rd test on the 27th of July at the Kennington Oval and lastly, to Manchester to play the final test on the 4th of August at Old Trafford.
England taking on South Africa is a storied and enjoyable contest that almost inevitably leads to the resignation of the English captain. While nobody expects Joe Root to give up just four tests into the test captaincy, it will be a thrilling contest, given the pitches and weather play ball. Both teams have injury concerns in their bowling line-up; England missing Chris Woakes for the first few games and possibly Stuart Broad, while South Africa are missing Dale Steyn.
The middle orders of both teams are shaky as well, with South Africa creaking under the pressure of ageing stars and Kolpak. This South African squad, however, is an exciting group to watch, and while their team has not had the most fantastic tour of England, with just three wins since their plane landed, their test team has always been fantastic overseas. They will rely on a mix of experience and new blood to take them to victory in what will be possibly the best series of the test season. Do not miss it.