The lowdown on South Africa’s new recruits.
With AB de Villiers and Dale Steyn injured, captain Faf du Plessis absent, and a glut of players having retired to pursue opportunities in county cricket, it will be a very different South Africa side that England face this summer compared to their last clash in 2016. Here we profile the six faces in South Africa’s Test squad who England have never come across in whites.
134 first-class matches
At 32, he’s the oldest on this list by some distance, and his call-up is just rewards for many seasons of consistent excellence. A wicketkeeper in his early days, in the last couple of years Kuhn has given up the gloves in the hope of winning selection as a pure batsman and struck a rich vein of form; he was named Cricket South Africa’s domestic player of the season in 2016, having scored 1,159 runs at an average of 58 in first-class cricket in the preceding season. A successful ‘A’ tour of England earlier this year, in which he scored 418 runs from six innings at an average of 69.67, including a double hundred against Hampshire, secured a berth in the Test squad. Indications suggest he will open with South Africa’s temporary captain Dean Elgar.
31 first-class matches
Young and precocious, Markram led a South Africa team featuring Kagiso Rabada and Andile Phehlukwayo to an under-19 World Cup win in 2014 – all are now in South Africa’s Test squad. Markram was not only their captain for that tournament, but also their leading run-scorer, blitzing 370 runs at an average of 123.33 in the tournament. A stellar 2016/17 season confirmed the right-hander as ready for the biggest stage. In first-class cricket he churned out 612 runs at an average 51, including two hundreds, while his List A form was equally good – he amassed 518 runs from his 10 games to help Titans win the Momentum One Day Cup, with his 161 in the final propelling his side to a match-winning total of 425. A half-century against England A and an unbeaten century against Hampshire for South Africa A secured his spot in the Test squad, where he will compete with Theunis de Bruyn to replace the absent Faf du Plessis.
Theunis de Bruyn
40 first-class matches
Following a brilliant first-class season – 751 runs at an average of 57.76, including two hundreds and four fifties – de Bruyn earned a place in the squad for South Africa’s tour of New Zealand earlier this year. Stephen Cook’s loss of form led to him making his Test debut as an opener in the final match of that series, but his struggles – he made 12 across the two innings – and his unfamiliarity with the position mean he won’t be considered as a long-term candidate to face the new ball. He is clearly highly thought of however, and has earned a call-up after notching 72* at Southampton for South Africa A. Having made a duck and 12 runs in the only Test he has played so far, de Bruyn will be looking to cement a middle-order slot.
87 first-class matches
It’s been a long time since South Africa had an established Test spinner. Dane Piedt, Simon Harmer, Robin Peterson and Tabraiz Shamsi, all came and went, while Imran Tahir struggled to convert his limited-overs potency into success in the longest format. In Maharaj, they may finally have found their man. The crafty left-arm spinner isn’t a huge turner of the ball, but he has enjoyed an excellent start to his Test career nonetheless, taking 26 wickets in seven games to prove he’s much more than just a container. Success in New Zealand, where he took two five-wicket hauls, suggests he could be handy on these shores too.
63 first-class matches
The latest tall, burly seamer to emerge from the South African production line, Duanne Olivier’s first-class record speaks for itself. But with South Africa having so many talented fast bowlers knocking about, the right-armer struggled at first to stand out from the pack. His answer was simply to take loads more wickets than anyone else, with his 2016/17 first-class tally of 64 far and away the best in South Africa. Not a great swinger of the ball, Olivier’s method is to trouble batsmen with pace and uncomfortable bounce, and these skills were very much on show on his international debut. Replacing Kyle Abbott following his international retirement, he claimed match figures of 5-57 against Sri Lanka, helping to dismiss them for less than 200 in both innings, as South Africa completed a 3-0 whitewash and an innings victory.
24 first-class matches
Seam-bowling allrounder Phehlukwayo might not have the experience or the stats of the others in this list – he has scored just two first-class fifties and taken just one five-fer – but he has impressed the selectors with his cool-headedness in the limited-overs opportunities he’s had for the national side. He announced himself with a nerveless 42* against Australia, as South Africa aced the second-highest chase in ODI history, while England fans might remember his wide yorkers and slower balls defending 12 off the last over of a T20 game a couple of weeks ago.