HomeSport‘Opening the innings is a specialist position’

‘Opening the innings is a specialist position’

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JOHANNESBURG – Using Stiaan van Zyl at the top of the order or employing Quinton de Kock as wicketkeeper and opener is not a long-term solution if the national selectors do decide to replace Alviro Petersen as Dean Elgar’s partner for the one-off cricket Test against Zimbabwe starting tomorrow in Harare, said Eric Simons, a former South Africa coach.

Simons was approached about the options available to the Proteas in the case of Petersen not being retained after some unconvincing performances at the top of the order in Sri Lanka.

Petersen scored 34, 32, 2 and 0 against Sri Lanka in the recent test series on Sri Lankan soil. South Africa won that series to regain their number-1 global test rankings from Australia.

The excellent Proteas have won 17 tests and have lost only five in away-series since July 2006, an exceptional series of performances.

The stylish right-handed Petersen has not completed a century since January 2013 against New Zealand at Newlands.

He averaged 33.69 in 2013. His greatest challenges have not been his ability or inability to get off the mark, but his failure to convert useful starts into substantial contributions.

Petersen (33) averages 35.60 in 32 tests, with five tons.

Simons, approached for his comments, said if the selectors look at De Kock, a regular opener for the bizhub Highveld Lions, they have to consider all scenarios during a test.

“It is one thing to walk in after the toss was won and open the batting on the first day. But when you have spent 110 overs in the field as wicketkeeper, you just want to have a shower and put your feet up. After four and a half days, you need a fresh opener to save you a test.

“If Stiaan van Zyl has the technique, you can open with him, but you probably need to select your next best opener (in the event of Petersen being dropped),” said Simons.

Van Zyl regularly bats at No 3 for the Nashua Mobile Cape Cobras and scored 933 runs during the Sunfoil Series in the 2013/2014-season.

“Opening the innings is a specialist position. Look at Australia, and how their successful team had Matthew Hayden and Justin Langer as openers, while the West Indian Islands had Gordon Greenidge and Desmond Haynes,” said Simons.

He added that you could always persist with an out-of-form opener if he had been prolific at a stage. An example like Alistair Cook springs to mind. He had his recent woes, but he could be carried as he was exceptional for quite a while.

If that is not the case, it is almost better for an out-of-form opener to go back to franchise cricket and re-establish himself. “It is not a case of permanently discarding somebody,” added Simons. -Supersport

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