South Africa have named three new caps, including opening batsman in Heino Kuhn, in the Test squad to play England. Batsman Aiden Markram and allrounder Andile Phehlukwayo are the other new faces, with Stephen Cook and Wayne Parnell dropped from the side that played in New Zealand. Dane Piedt, who was recalled to the squad in March during the New Zealand Tests, also does not feature, with Keshav Maharaj the only specialist spinner.
While Kuhn, who is also a wicketkeeper, is certain to open at Lord's, Markram has been included as cover for Faf du Plessis. South Africa's Test captain is in danger of missing the first match as he awaits the birth of his first child. Should du Plessis not make it back to the UK in time for that game, Dean Elgar will lead in his absence. Elgar will also captain South Africa in their warm-up match against England Lions in Worcester this week.
Phehlukwayo, the other new addition, has just 24 first-class games to his name and joins Chris Morris as a second allrounder in place of Parnell. Both Morris and Phehlukwayo are back-up to Vernon Philander, who has recovered from off-season niggles and is now seen as South Africa's premier two-in-one player,. Philander struggled with a groin problem and an ankle niggle during his time at Sussex but has been passed fully fit to take his place as part of a six-strong pace pack that will be headlined by Kagiso Rabada. Morne Morkel, Duanne Olivier, Morris and Phehlukwayo make up the rest of the attack.
Hashim Amla, Temba Bavuma and JP Duminy will make up the middle order, where Theunis de Bruyn, who made his debut in Cook's place in Hamilton, is the back-up batsman. That crop of players will be hopeful of better starts from the top two, whose highest stand was just 18 across the three Tests in New Zealand. Cook only scored 17 runs in four innings, which ultimately cost him his spot, and the selectors now believe Kuhn, who in fine form, can bolster the top order.
Kuhn has had a successful time in England with the South Africa A side, for whom he scored a double-hundred against Hampshire and a century against England Lions this month. A veteran of 12 seasons on the domestic circuit, Kuhn topped the first-class run charts in 2015-16, with over 1000 runs, and said he never gave up on his dream to play for South Africa. "I always believe that everything happens for a reason. I think it's the perfect time for me now," he said after the match against Lions. " I've matured a lot as a batsman and a cricketer, and what a place to make your debut."
Last season, Kuhn had chosen to relinquish the wicketkeeping gloves to focus on his batting under the guidance of Titans coach Mark Boucher, who saw the opening spot as a possibility for Kuhn in Tests. "The one thing Boucher said was to focus on the batting more than on the 'keeping -- always keep on working on my 'keeping but not make that the priority," Kuhn said. "That's what I've done. He's made it very clear that I will open the batting in four-day cricket, and that's what I've done. He's changed my thinking from a keeper-batsman to a batsman who can be a keeper if I need to."
At 33, Kuhn may only have a few years of international cricket but has vowed to finish his cricket in South Africa. It remains to be seen if Cook will do the same. He has been playing for Durham on the county circuit, ostensibly as preparation for the Tests. He reportedly turned down a Kolpak offer when the spate of signings were made earlier this year and has repeatedly provided reassurances of his patriotism. But with Markram the next cab off the rank, it's difficult to see how Cook will find his way back into Test cricket.
Squad: Faf du Plessis (capt), Hashim Amla, Temba Bavuma, Theunis de Bruyn, Quinton de Kock (wk), JP Duminy, Dean Elgar, Heino Kuhn, Keshav Maharaj, Aiden Markram, Morne Morkel, Chris Morris, Duanne Olivier, Andile Phehlukwayo, Vernon Philander, Kagiso Rabada