September 25, 2022
South Africa 2022 in England

The South African captain was the victim of a hostile throw from his own coach Mark Boucher, which jumped over the front of his shoulder and hit the grill. Elgar was later seen awkwardly holding hands with an ice pack in the injured area, and did not participate in any slip catching. But sources confirm that there is no doubt about his participation in the decider. If that were the case, it would be really sad as South Africa are still looking for a way to get more runs on the board.

For Peterson, the task ahead is simple in word, though difficult in practice. “It’s clear. We need to score a century on top,” he said. “It hasn’t happened for a while now. The batsmen have to step up and get some big scores.”

He wouldn’t say that some of them are playing for their Test places, but with at least one reserve starting in the injury-enforced absence of Rasie van der Dussen, the writing should be close to turning on the wall. “I don’t think we want to think that way,” Peterson said. “As a person you’re probably going to feel that way, but I don’t believe there’s any pressure from above that’s going to make us feel that way.”

Even though van der Dussen did not break his left index finger at Manchester, his place for The Oval was in doubt. He has played 13 innings in his last seven Test matches without a half-century and averaged 24.17. Either that or Aiden Markram, who averages 15.56 in his last nine Tests, will have to make way for Ryan Rickelton.

With van der Dussen definitely out, Rickelton is certain to play, but South Africa could look fit to make a double change, with Markram sitting out for Khaya Zondo. Neither Rickelton nor Zondo have extensive Test experience – Rickelton played two Tests against Bangladesh and Zondo started in the same series as a Covid-19 substitute but did not bat – and whoever will play Will be under scrutiny from the get-go. But if they are given a chance, they are batting for the big picture and giving the middle-order a chance to make their own.

Rickleton comes with a second hot streak of form, which both South Africa have failed to capitalize on. He scored three centuries and one ninety runs in five first-class innings between November 2021 and January 2022, but did not play against New Zealand on South Africa’s February tour, despite Pietersen calling off the tour after contracting Covid-19. did not remember Now, Rickelton has scored two centuries and four fifties in eight innings for Northamptonshire, which he got by chance, but especially in preparation for playing in England.

Rickelton was getting ready for winter training in South Africa when his old school friend Ricardo Vasconcelos asked him if he was interested in a county stint. With the Test tour in mind, Rickelton jumped at the chance and has been in the country since late June, acquainting himself with the conditions, swing in particular. If he can counter it, as Searle Irvi said in an interview with ESPNcricinfo, that’s a big part of the challenge.

In South Africa, Rickelton is known for his flair – awarded from years of practice in the school nets when his father was the sports director – and the ability to make an innings, a feat no South African batsman other than Irvi has ever done. Not done on tour. He has struck a balance between grit and power hitting and importantly, has converted his starts. He has 14 first-class fifties and 12 centuries to his name. Five of Rickleton’s 12 centuries are scores of over 150. No one in South Africa’s Test squad has scored a score of that significance since Faf du Plessis’ 199 against Sri Lanka in the Boxing Day Test in 2020, 14 Test matches earlier.

Pietersen puts the lack of big runs on the mindset rather than the application, and yet has no solution other than to show more resolution. “It’s all mental. I don’t think we’ve struggled to get in. It’s starting and going out, that’s the problem,” he said. “It’s the middle position that you have to prepare for, and you know it’s going to be tough. You have to at least try to fight through that tough phase. That’s where you have to mentally yourself all the time has to be challenged. The actual process of doing that. It’s going to happen in the moment.”

That’s why Zondo could come into the mix, too. He doesn’t have Rickelton’s recent numbers, but more than enough mental resolve after the agony of non-selection several years ago, his testimony at social justice and nation-building hearings, and his first double century last summer. As a black African batsman, Zondo is also rare in South African cricket and will recognize the symbolism of his selection and the importance attached to his performance. In some ways, this may put an undue burden on him, but he has spoken powerfully about issues of discrimination and his commitment to representing what he believes is right.

The last substitute for South Africa’s line-up is Wien Mulder, who joined the squad when van der Dussen was out and added to their lower-order reserves. Like Rickelton, he has also done well in the County Championship, scoring two centuries and two fifties for Leicestershire in Division Two and is the third-highest run-scorer in the One Day Cup.

Mulder’s place in the South African set-up remains confusing – he hasn’t played a white-ball game in a year, has lost to Dwayne Pretorius and Wayne Parnell and hasn’t made it to the T20 World Cup squad. He recently played Tests in the form of Bangladesh series in March-April and then missed this team. With Marco Jensen the favorite all-rounder, it is difficult to see how Mulder will get more regular runs, but if the opportunity presents itself, the form he is in, he is in a good place to grab it.

With some parts of their XI shaky, South Africa are not going to be in a decisive position as they would like. Their batting still presents more questions than answers, it is still scraping with thanks to several small contributions and it clearly needs to improve if it is going to challenge the best bowling attacks in the world.

But it has got them through four undefeated series (West Indies, India, New Zealand and Bangladesh) and a win (or draw, although South Africa have not drawn a Test since 2017) away from fifth and it is equally poised. as much as he can be. “That’s what we live for as cricketers: series decider. It’s going to be thrilling,” Pietersen said. “There’s a lot for both teams and I think you’re going to get a good game.”

Firdous Munda is ESPNcricinfo’s South Africa correspondent

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