JOHANNESBURG - Seam bowling all-rounders Ryan McLaren and Wayne Parnell were both named on Wednesday in a 15-man South African Test squad to play three matches against Australia next month. The pair are expected to contest the all-rounder berth left vacant by the retirement of Jacques Kallis, South Africa's all-time leading Test run-scorer.
The right-armed McLaren and left-armer Parnell both made their Test debuts in an innings win against England in Johannesburg in 2009/10 but quickly dropped out of favour. McLaren, who turns 31 three days before the first Test against Australia starts in Centurion on February 12, has not played in another Test but has become a regular member of South Africa's one-day team. Parnell was 20 when he earned his first Test cap. He played twice more on a tour of India in the same season but subsequently struggled with form and injuries. He has shown good form recently, however, and his extra pace may give him an advantage over McLaren, although the latter is regarded as a better batsman. Selection convener Andrew Hudson said he believed the squad "covers all possible options."
McLaren and Parnell are the only additions to the squad selected for a recent winning home series against India, replacing Kallis and leg-spinner Imran Tahir. The dropping of Tahir leaves left-armer Robin Peterson as the only specialist spin bowler. Batsman Dean Elgar, fast bowler Rory Kleinveldt and wicketkeeper Thami Tsolekile are likely once again to have back-up roles. Batsman-wicketkeeper AB de Villiers underwent surgery on his left hand earlier this month but according to Cricket South Africa is recovering well. Captain Graeme Smith and fast bowler Morne Morkel were both said to have recovered from ankle injuries. With Kallis and De Villiers essentially filling all-rounder roles, South Africa have been able to pick seven top-quality batsmen while entrenching their position as the world's leading Test side, but the retirement of Kallis makes a continuation of this policy impossible. If there were doubts about De Villiers being able to keep wicket following his surgery, Tsolekile would have to take the gloves, further affecting the balance of the side. Coach Russell Domingo told a press conference that Faf du Plessis had been earmarked to bat at number four in place of Kallis. Du Plessis previously filled the number seven slot. The bulk of the Australian squad were due to arrive in Johannesburg later on Wednesday. They would go straight to Potchefstroom, about 145km away, to prepare for a four-day warm-up match against a South African Invitation XI starting next Wednesday.
SQUAD: Graeme Smith (captain), Hashim Amla, AB de Villiers (wkt), JP Duminy, Faf du Plessis, Dean Elgar, Rory Kleinveldt, Ryan McLaren, Morne Morkel, Wayne Parnell, Alviro Petersen, Robin Peterson, Vernon Philander, Dale Steyn, Thami Tsolekile (wkt).