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Monday, June 24, 2024

Who is Ryan Rickelton competing with in Test team? It’s definitely not with Senuran Muthusamy

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Gqeberha – The support for Ryan Rickelton to feature somewhere in the Proteas Test top six has risen after the 26-year-old proved his dominance again this season and the Proteas batters again flattered to deceive in the first Test against the West Indies.

Sport’s Ongama Gcwabe looks into why he didn’t play in Centurion and who he actually competes with in the Test squad after coach Shukri Conrad picked Senuran Muthusamy as a batting all-rounder in the No 7 spot.

The Proteas Test team heads over to the Wanderers with questions to answer, more so in the batting front after yet another batting collapse in the first Test in Centurion. The main question is whether or not Rickelton plays in his home ground?

Rickelton has dominated every bowling attack in the country in red-ball cricket in the past two seasons. This season, the 26-year-old has struck three tons in just five innings, this after being dropped from the Test squad in December.

Rickelton’s impressive conversion rate in his first-class career seems to be just what the Proteas Test batting order is crying out for at the moment.

ALSO READ: Temba Bavuma praises Proteas bowlers, but batters ‘have to do better’

But where does If Rickelton fit in terms of the team dynamic? Who is he really competing with? It’s certainly not Muthusamy.

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From the moment the Test squad was selected, Conrad and skipper Temba Bavuma emphasised the intention to explore the seven batters – four bowlers split that the Test team did not try out under Mark Boucher.

This saw a selection of three all-rounders for the ongoing West Indies series, with Muthusamy slotting in at No 7 at the expense of first-choice spinner Keshav Maharaj because of his ability with the bat.

The new regime made it clear that the No 7 spot should be occupied by a batting all-rounder, thus ruling Rickelton out of potentially taking that spot.

Muthusamy was a perfect candidate for the spot in Centurion seeing that the pitch brings spinners into play massively on days four and five when the cracks open up at SuperSport Park. But the Muthusamy trial did not go according to plan in the first Test which ended on day three, with the seamers dominating the encounter.

This has left fans in the country questioning Tony de Zorzi and Keegan Petersen’s spots in the line-up.

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This season, De Zorzi scored the second highest first-class score in the history of South African cricket, a triple century against an attack that included the promising Gerald Coetzee at Newlands and averages 101 in this season’s 4-Day competition.

Petersen, on the other hand, didn’t have a good comeback from injury in the first Test. But his Man of the Series performance against India in 2021 carries a lot of weight and understandably saw him play ahead of Rickelton at Centurion.

However, should Petersen not perform at the Wanderers in the second Test, then it would probably be fair to call for his head.

This means positions three, four and five in the batting order, where Rickleton has succeeded at domestic level, are occupied.

This then leaves positions one, two and six in the line-up where Dean Elgar, Aiden Markram and Heinrich Klaasen are positioned, respectively.

Conrad will be awarding both Markram and Klaasen extended runs in their positions. The two seemingly have immunity for this series and the India series scheduled for December.

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Elgar was in good touch in the first Test and put on a solid century stand with Markram at the top of the order in the first innings. One would imagine that Elgar would be given a long run in the Test side, not only for his batting capabilities, but also for his vast Test match experience, especially in what is an inexperienced Test batting order.

But there will be a shake-up in terms of the bowling line-up for the second Test following the mild groin injury sustained by Anrich Nortje in the first Test.

This suggests that Wiaan Mulder might play ahead of Muthusamy to make up the four-prong seam attack.

The recent spinner-friendly conditions at the Wanderers in the SA20 and also in the Lions-Warriors 4 Day series encounter a week ago suggest that Keshav Maharaj and/or Simon Harmer might join the bowling attack.

@imongamagcwabe

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