Proteas fine-tuning squad for ICC Cricket World Cup 2019

CSA announced a squad for the final two ODIs against Sri Lanka. The team welcomed back Aiden Markram, Hashim Amla and JP Duminy.

FILE: Picture: @@cricketworldcup/Twitter.

CAPE TOWN - According to Cricket South Africa’s (CSA) chief national selector Linda Zondi, the Proteas World Cup squad is all but set except for one slot in the 15-man World Cup roster.

CSA announced a squad for the final two ODIs against Sri Lanka. The team welcomed back Aiden Markram, Hashim Amla and JP Duminy.

The three recalls meant that Reeza Hendricks was dropped.

Amla has withdrawn from the squad due to compassionate reasons and Hendricks has been recalled for the final two ODIs.

From Zondi’s words, it’s clear you can almost bank on the latest squad being the final roster with perhaps one more change.

“We are very far, we are about a 98% there and we are looking at one spot. We are slightly delayed, by now we felt that by Pakistan and Sri Lanka, our World Cup squad would have been playing but there were injuries and a lot of things, so we are very close. In fact, we know whom we’re looking for and it’s just the fine tuning."

The one spot Zondi speaks of is relatively easy to decipher; they must choose between Reeza Hendricks/Hashim Amla/Aiden Markram (extra batsman) or Anrich Nortje (fast bowler).

Hendricks, a stylish right-hander, has looked a certainty for the Cricket World Cup (CWC) but his 34 runs from his last three innings against Sri Lanka indicate a stutter in his output.

Compare this to his form in December-February where he lit up the inaugural Mzansi Super League and looked a million bucks for his 74 against Pakistan in the T20 series. He also played some pivotal innings for the Lions in the One-Day Cup (130 and 95).

Unfortunately, for Hendricks, Markram made the most of his time in domestic cricket with successive knocks of 169, 139 and 85 in the One-Day Cup. It forced him back into contention with public begging for the inclusion of the clearly talented 23-year-old, Zondi duly responded.

Markram’s ODI record is underwhelming but it’s evident the players potential and talent ceiling is above most other South African batsmen.

On Markram’s inclusion, Zondi suggests his performances could not be ignored just as it seemed he would miss the CWC boat.

“No one knew that when Markram went back to his franchise, he would score such big runs, which is good for us.”

Zondi and his selection panel would be brave to leave out the veteran Amla - despite a noticeable dip in form, Amla has the pedigree and experience which could prove invaluable at a CWC. Amla still boasts a world-class ODI record, he averages 49.74 with a strike rate of just under 90.

His compassionate leave will no doubt throw even more spanners in the works for Zondi, that could be compounded if Hendricks plays and scores run in Port Elizabeth and Cape Town.

Moving to the possibility of another fast bowler in the CWC squad; Kagiso Rabada, Lungi Ngidi and Dale Steyn are the fast bowling certainties, but Nortje has made a late play in the Sri Lankan series to be included in the squad.

His pace and aggression could be an asset in English conditions and his international form has forced a rethink to the makeup of the CWC squad.

“Are we taking the four (fast bowlers)? Are we not taking the extra wicketkeeper? Are we going with Reeza, Amla or Markram? Those are just the final nitty gritty’s that we are doing, so that’s why we pushed for Nortje to play right at the end. it’s just the fine-tuning and being clear in terms of the final touches.”

Finally, with selectors set on picking two wrist spinners - Imran Tahir and Tabraiz Shamsi - the all-rounder position seems to be locked in with Wiaan Mulder and Chris Morris missing out with Andile Phehlukwayo and Dwaine Pretorius in the driving seat.

"I think we always wanted to go with the batting all-rounder at 7. I think how Pretorius is going along and Phehlukwayo is coming through. We gave Mulder a chance and you can see that probably he is behind those guys who are leading.”

Probably Proteas World Cup squad:

Faf du Plessis (Multiply Titans, capt),
Hashim Amla (World Sports Betting Cape Cobras),
Quinton de Kock (Multiply Titans),
JP Duminy (World Sports Betting Cape Cobras),
Imran Tahir (Hollywoodbets Dolphins),
Aiden Markram (Multiply Titans),
David Miller (Hollywoodbets Dolphins),
Lungi Ngidi (Multiply Titans),
Anrich Nortje (Warriors),
Andile Phehlukwayo (Hollywoodbets Dolphins),
Dwaine Pretorius (bizhub Highveld Lions),
Kagiso Rabada (bizhub Highveld Lions),
Tabraiz Shamsi (Multiply Titans),
Dale Steyn (Multiply Titans),
Rassie van der Dussen (bizhub Highveld Lions).

Still in the running: Reeza Hendricks (bizhub Highveld Lions)