Eng vs SA, 2nd Test, Old Trafford – South Africa middle order ‘under pressure’ to score runs

Eng vs SA, 2nd Test, Old Trafford - South Africa middle order 'under pressure' to score runs

South Africa’s middle-order batters are “under pressure,” to score runs at Old Trafford after none of them got an individual score over 25 at Lord’s. While Test captain Dean Elgar supports backing the same batters who did duty in the first Test, he acknowledged that there needs to be more runs from them if South Africa are to play to their full potential.

“As long as we are still getting the results on our side, backing is extremely important for those guys. We have given them a decent run of late and I am sure they know they are under pressure to perform,” Elgar said. “They are proper batters. They are here for a reason.

“If they are firing in the middle order and we conduct ourselves like we have been doing of late, our Test side can only grow. But they are here, they are being backed. I don’t see a change. Consistency is key to success, and even consistency in selection. It’s a tough series playing against England away from home. You need to back your horses that you’ve been backing for a while now.”

South Africa have opted for Aiden Markram at No.4, Rassie van der Dussen at No.5 and Kyle Verreynne (who batted lower at Lord’s after his grandfather took ill in the stands) at No.6. Between them, they scored 46 runs and, with Test vice-captain Temba Bavuma due to return from an elbow injury later in the year, could end up competing for two spots. The choice could become between Markram and van der Dussen, who have both had lean runs, and who selection convener Victor Mpitsang is particularly concerned about. Earlier in the week, Mptisang told South African media: “If they are putting up big numbers, and contributing it would help the conversation around them.”

Markram has only recently moved into the No.4 role after effectively being dropped as an opener in New Zealand following a poor run. He had scored 140 runs at 15.56 in five Tests before that. But, Keegan Petersen contracted Covid-19 and missed the trip, which opened up a spot for Markram to bat at No.3. He scored 76 runs in four innings on that tour and 16 runs at No.4 at Lord’s. Van der Dussen has done better, but only slightly. He has scored 233 runs in his last six Tests at 23.30 and has not scored a half-century since his unbeaten 75 in West Indies last year.

Verreynne is the player with a lot more slack. Not only is he the wicketkeeper and likely to be in that role for the long haul but he is one of only four South African batters to score a century in their last 11 Tests. His only serious competitor at the moment is Ryan Rickelton, though he is not thought to be South Africa’s first-choice gloveman. While South Africa have won eight of those matches, they remain concerned with the line-up, especially in difficult conditions.

Though he has not said it outright, that was one of the reasons Elgar chose to bowl in cloudy, humid conditions at Lord’s, even though he is usually a bat-first captain. England are expecting Old Trafford to present more challenges for batters with Ben Stokes explaining Ollie Robinson’s selection as being due to extra pace and bounce in Manchester.

Elgar brushed that off as tactical talk, and, as he so often does, leaned on South Africa’s stronger suit to counter that. “I love the mind games,” he said. “If there is going to be extra pace and bounce, I am pretty sure our fast bowlers will extract it.”

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