Sri Lanka v South Africa Test - Men's
Faf hints at AB's replacement
It will be no easy task, but the Proteas have a player waiting in the wings to fill the boots of AB de Villiers
3 July 2018, 12:37 PM AEST
Proteas skipper Faf du Plessis has nominated Temba Bavuma to fill the enormous hole left by retired great AB de Villiers in South Africa’s middle order.
De Villiers shocked world cricket when he announced his immediate retirement from international cricket in May, calling time on an incredible career in all three formats of the game.
With the champion batsman now unavailable, South Africa must attempt the seemingly impossible of finding a replacement, with a two-Test tour of Sri Lanka to be their first series of the post-de Villiers era.
But du Plessis didn’t sound overly concerned by the departure of the star right-hander, who only returned to Test cricket at the start of 2018 after spending nearly two years on the sidelines.
And it appears Bavuma will get first crack at the vacant No.4 spot, according to du Plessis.
"AB has only played the last one or two series for this Test team, so he has actually not been playing for a while," du Plessis said.
"It will be a nice opportunity for Temba (Bavuma) or somebody else to put his peg in the ground and make the position his own again."
He added: "Number four will probably be a good position for him (Bavuma).
"There will be some good discussions in the team. Obviously, when you go to the subcontinent, the hardest places to bat will be in the middle because you come in facing the spinning and the reverse swinging ball.
"So what I think we will discuss is that we will try and get our best players of spin in the middle periods to try and counter that.
"So if that gives an opportunity to change our batting lineup a little bit, we will definitely be looking into that."
Bavuma has played 29 Tests and scored one century, but is coming off unbeaten knocks of 95 and 35 in his last Test, against Australia in Johannesburg.
He’s been in and out of the Proteas Test side that preferred to bat wicketkeeper Quinton de Kock at No.6 to allow an extra bowling option, but now Bavuma has a clear opening for regular middle-order residency.
The diminutive Bavuma and South Africa’s well-balanced batting unit will go from fast and bouncy pitches at home to spinning conditions abroad that they have not faced in quite some time.
It’s been close to three years since South Africa toured the subcontinent where they were beaten 3-0 by India in what was their first away series loss in nine years.
The Proteas arrive in Sri Lanka as the No.2 Test team in the world boasting an all-star bowling attack led by some of the fiercest pacemen in the world.
"No matter what the conditions are, a big strength of our team will always be our fast bowlers, especially the personnel we have; (Dale) Steyn, Kagiso (Rabada) and Vernon (Philander) are all wicket-taking bowlers," he said.
"Those three have proven they can do it in any conditions.
"Dale has got a fantastic record in the subcontinent and KG (Rabada) is gold.
"He will be able to do anything, and we've got Keshav (Maharaj).
"If we want to and there's an opportunity to, because the conditions are really bad, then we can look at a second spinner (one of Tabraiz Shamsi or Shaun von Berg)."