Rilee Rossouw has been called up to the South Africa Test squad as a replacement batsman after Quinton de Kock was ruled out of the series with an ankle ligament tear.
Rossouw, 25, has not played any cricket since December 12 and is nursing a finger injury, which indicates Temba Bavuma, the Lions No. 3, could make his debut in Port Elizabeth.
Rossouw, who has played nine ODIs and three T20s for South Africa, did not play in the recently completed first-class fixture for the Knights against the Titans and was ruled out of their next match, starting on December 27 as well. On Monday, Knights’ coach Sarel Cilliers said: “Rilee is still struggling with that finger of his, so under the medical committee’s advice we’re not going to play him in the two Sunfoil Series games so that he can try and get ready for the West Indies T20 series.”
Despite that, Rossouw has been called up to the national squad, following for both remaining Tests against West Indies following seasons of bubbling under the surface. Rossouw boasts a first-class average of 44.83 and was eighth on last season’s first-class competition run-scorers’ list. He has only played one first-class game this summer but enjoyed a successful late winter tour of Australia, where he scored a double-century for South Africa A in an unofficial Test against Australia A.
He shared in a stand of 343 with Bavuma, who scored 162 in the game and will likely play ahead of Rossouw if South Africa opt for a batsman to play in de Kock’s place. Their other option would be to go into the game with only six specialist batsmen and play their full complement of bowlers which includes four frontline seamers and a spinner. Robin Peterson, the only slower-bowler in the squad, missed out in the first Test at Centurion as South Africa opted to go all-pace but on what is expected to be a slower track at St George’s Park, they may turn to him.
What is more certain is that AB de Villiers will be asked to keep wicket for the rest of the Test series, even though he carries a chronic back problem. With no other gloveman in the squad, South Africa have no choice but to task de Villiers’ with the job, although they may relieve him of the duties for the limited-overs’ matches, especially as the World Cup draws nearer.
With de Villiers’ fitness in mind, South Africa may make use of Morne van Wyk in the T20s and ODIs against West Indies, especially because the vastly experienced gloveman can also open the batting as de Kock did. Van Wyk is currently the one-day cup’s second-highest run-scorer with 353 runs from five innings, including two centuries. He was part of the 2011 World Cup squad and led the Dolphins at the Champions League T20, so he also has big tournament experience, should he be needed at the World Cup, if de Kock does not recover in time.
If de Villiers can cope with the keeping duties in the shorter formats, then South Africa will only need a replacement opener for de Kock. Richard Levi would be the frontrunner for the spot after a strong showing in the domestic 20-over competition where he was the leading run-scorer. Henry Davids, who was second, could also be considered, along with third-placed Reeza Hendricks. Alternatively, South Africa may look at the one-day cup statistics where Andrew Puttick tops the charts.