Prices will have to be paid for another Proteas’ batting failure as South Africa look to stay alive in the series when the second Test against India starts at the Wanderers on Monday, their batting line-up being further weakened by the absence of Quinton de Kock.
The wicketkeeper was always going to miss the New Years Test as well as the final match of the series due to the birth of his first child, but then rocked the Proteas camp even further by announcing his retirement from all Test cricket on Thursday evening, just hours after South Africa had lost the first Test by 113 runs.
Kyle Verreynne is the most likely replacement for De Kock, although Ryan Rickelton has the advantage of playing on his home ground and being in red-hot form with two centuries in his last two innings at the Wanderers.
There is a chance that both could play if the Proteas decide to go into the match with just four frontline bowlers, replacing Wiaan Mulder with a specialist batsman. The all-rounder has done a solid job with the ball, but he has made just 106 runs in eight innings this year. South Africa need more from their No 7.
Keshav Maharaj is indisputably South Africa’s No 1 spinner and one of the senior players, but he was unused in the Indian second innings at Centurion and went wicketless in 18 overs on the first day.
If the Wanderers pitch is similar – and it has certainly given the pacemen plenty of assistance so far this summer – then the Proteas will be tempted to leave Maharaj out and play an all-seam attack with Duanne Olivier joining left-armer Marco Jansen, who took four wickets in the Indian second innings and also showed enough gumption with the bat to do well at No 8.
Captain Dean Elgar paid a massive compliment to Jansen after the first Test and he also supported the suggestion that Keegan Petersen, who has scored just 76 runs in his five Test innings but in all of them he has come to the crease with less than five runs on the board, drop down the order.
“We’ll definitely look into the all-rounder position,” Elgar said. “Wiaan has been pretty good with the ball but obviously has not lived up to the standards he has set himself with the bat.
“So we’ll be having the sort of open conversations we need to have in this environment. I thought Marco was our player of the game and had a brilliant debut. But carrying two all-rounders is maybe not ideal.
“It’s a valid point about Keegan dropping down the order and that’s also a conversation we’ll have. We could potentially exercise that option, it’s not a bad idea to give him better opportunity against the older ball.
“He’s played three Tests and they’ve all been in relatively tough batting conditions. It’s been a rough start to his career but it doesn’t reflect on him as a player. He is extremely talented, he’s been one of our best domestically for a few years,” Elgar said.