Johannesburg: Dean Elgar, the Knights` left-hander who has played five ODIs for South Africa, has been called up to replace JP Duminy in the Test squad. Duminy was ruled out of cricket for six months with a ruptured Achilles` tendon and while Faf du Plessis remains the favourite to take his place in the starting XI, Elgar has been called a "like-for-like replacement."
Although a top-order batsman rather than a lower middle-order one, Elgar also bowls left-arm spin and could be seen to offer the same part-time bowling option as Duminy. Du Plessis, though, bowls legspin and is regarded as next in line, given his inclusion as replacement batsman over the last two tours.
Elgar, a former South Africa Under-19 captain, made his case for a place in the national squad soon after debuting in first-class cricket. In 2006-07, he averaged 55.06 and scored 881 runs in the first-class competition. But two lean patches followed and he only really caught the eye again two seasons later. Elgar`s 2009-10 summer resulted in 1193 runs at an average of 62.78 and 2010-11 one saw him score 816 runs at 54.49.
With a reputation for being able to play all around the wicket, a strong square cut and proven form, he was named captain of South Africa`s Invitation side to play Sri Lanka in December last year. Elgar top scored with 78. Although always seen as a longer format player, he was named in the squad to play in the ODIs against them later in the tour. He tore knee ligaments on the eve of the series and was ruled out of most of the remainder of the season but continued to feature in South Africa`s plans.
Elgar played in the A series against Sri Lanka A in June, where he scored 177 in South Africa`s innings victory. He also travelled to Ireland in August to shadow the men`s senior side in England and made his debut in the ODIs. Although he did not score a single half-century, scores of 15, 42, 35 and 1 were enough to have national convenor of selector Andrew Hudson labelling it a "good debut series."
Elgar will only travel to Australia once his visa requirements have been processed but with the second Test 11 days away that is not a worry. He will play for the Knights in their domestic one-day cup match on Sunday.
While Elgar will celebrate his maiden call-up to the Test squad, some of the other players in contention may be aggrieved at being overlooked, especially as there are lower-order players who could be in line. Justin Ontong is the closest as an exact replacement for Duminy. He was the top-scoring middle-order batsman last season. In nine matches, he scored 658 runs at an average of 59.81, with two hundreds and four fifties.
Ashwell Prince may not have fancied sitting on the bench but would have been keen on a recall. Since he was dropped after the Boxing Day Test against Sri Lanka in Durban last December, he has done well for Lancashire and started this season with 213 runs in three matches for the Warriors. He remains a nationally contracted player and Hudson said at the time of Prince`s exit that he would remain in their thoughts.
Colin Ingram was another candidate. He fell out of favour after the ODI series against Sri Lanka in January but has been churning out the runs at franchise level. His 270 runs in three matches this season have come at an average of 54.00.
None of that has any bearing on the current Test squad, with Elgar due to arrive in Australia soon.
BDST: 1900 HRS, November 11, 2012
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