THE Cape Cobras face an uphill task of resurrecting their faltering Sunfoil Series campaign this weekend, while JP Duminy is in a similar position trying to force his way back into the SA Test side.
The Cobras man was dropped from the Proteas squad after England crushed SA in the Boxing Day Test when the home side’s batting was dismal.
Duminy was not the worst performer, but his recent record warranted exclusion.
His past 12 Test innings have realised only 339 runs at an average of 28.25. Subtract the unbeaten 100 against Sri Lanka in Galle in July 2014, and his average in the same period dips to 20.81 with a highest score of 55.
While SA eventually found batting inspiration against England at Newlands with their 627, Duminy’s figures highlighted a general batting malaise prevalent in the senior Proteas core except for AB de Villiers.
Faf du Plessis may have earned himself a stay of execution with his gritty 216-ball 86, but his past 12 Test knocks have returned a paltry 296 runs at 24.66.
Excluding yesterday’s drawn Test, SA’s batting went from excellent to extremely poor over the past year.
Du Plessis decided to skip the first round of the Sunfoil Series, while Duminy and Temba Bavuma were the only national team batsmen including Hashim Amla and Stiaan van Zyl to find some form ahead of the first Test.
Bavuma’s groundbreaking maiden Test hundred and Du Plessis’ 86 would have eased the selectors’ concerns about the middle order’s solidity.
Today’s four-day game against the Highveld Lions at Boland Park in Paarl will allow Duminy to find form in a unit that is bereft of batting confidence.
The Cobras have had a less than savoury start to the Sunfoil Series, with heavy defeats at home and on the road.
They were clouted by an innings and plenty by the Knights in the opening round, while Tabraiz Shamsi’s 12-wicket haul consigned them to a 10-wicket defeat against the Titans in Benoni last week. The galling part about the opening round loss to the Knights was that Duminy, with Stiaan van Zyl and Amla, were part of a star-studded unit that failed to fire.
Despite Andrew Puttick’s valiant 92, the Cobras’ batting performed in fits and starts in their second innings after stumbling to 107 all out in their first dig.
The Proteas selectors had announced a squad for the first two Tests. However, the improved showing at Newlands may convince convener of selectors Linda Zondi to stick with what they have, notwithstanding Van Zyl’s questionable form and confidence, once again leaving Duminy in the cold.
The opening berth is another story, but a domestic middle-order shootout could be something that keeps the incumbents on their toes despite encouraging showings.
In other fixtures, the Dolphins host the Warriors in Pietermaritzburg, while the Titans travel to Bloemfontein to play the Knights.