The struggling South African cricket side has decided to move AB de Villiers back behind the wicket in an attempt to break out of a scoring slump. He will keep wicket in at least the first two tests of the four-match series with England.
The South Africans only reached 200 runs in one of seven innings in a four-test visit to India, losing the series 3-0. Because of a back problem, de Villiers has spent most of the last 18 months as a specialist batsman, but did keep wicket during a 2-0 home series win against the West Indies a year ago.
“AB saw the need that the team has now and understands that if he keeps wicket, it allows us to have an extra batsman,” Linda Zondi, South Africa’s convener of selectors, told ESPNcricinfo. “When we became No. 1, we had seven batters. It gives us an extra edge. We are very grateful from a selection point of view that he has agreed to do it. He is the ultimate team man.”
De Villiers averaged 36.85 in India with a high score of 85 after putting up 103.33 in the three matches against the West Indians, where the wicket-keeping duties did not seem to cause him any problems. Dane Vilas wore the gloves in India, but only averaged 8.57 with the bat, forcing the South African management to consider the move to replace him in the batting order with a seventh batsmen.
The other option would have been to recall 23-year-old Quinton de Kock, who was dropped after picking up a second-ball duck in his only innings in the July draw against Bangladesh. De Kock averaged 63.60 in the five-match ODI series in India, including a century, but that wasn’t enough to get him back into the Test side.
Zondi said the situation will be re-evaluated after the Second Test.
Stiaan van Zyl is expected to return to the lineup as an opener, with Temba Bavuma moving back to the middle order.
The First Test begins Boxing Day in Durban.