CAPE TOWN – Dale Steyn’s hopes of staging a Proteas comeback for the final two Tests against Australia have effectively been squashed after paceman Duanne Olivier and all-rounder Chris Morris were called up yesterday.
The pair were drafted into an enlarged squad in the wake of Kagiso Rabada’s two-Test suspension. The fast bowler has appealed the decision with the hearing taking place today.
It was always going to be unlikely that Steyn would be ready for third Test at Newlands starting on Thursday, but the veteran fast bowler was hopeful that he would play at least some part in the Australian series, having told Independent Media “I would love to play the last one” at a sponsor’s function last week.
The selectors, though, are treading cautiously due to the 34-year-old having not being able to play since walking off at Newlands during the New Year Test against India with a bruised heel. While Steyn would “hate to let my teammates down” by breaking down midway through a game with an injury again, he believed he could prove his fitness through “simulating a game”.
“We spoke about me going down to the ground. Bowling six overs in the morning. Bat a little bit. Stay on my feet. Maybe a little bit more, another six overs. Join the guys for lunch. And then go out there again.
“Basically simulate two days of play. If I could get through that, it is much of a muchness in terms of a game. I would need to do that physically and mentally to know that I can through a game would be super important.”
South Africa have instead spread their options for the Newlands Test with Morne Morkel already in the squad. The lanky paceman is retiring from international cricket after this series, but remains the leading candidate to come into the Proteas starting line-up should Rabada’s appeal be unsuccessful.
However, the selectors have already shown during this series that there is no place for sentiment with Lungi Ngidi replacing Morkel for the second Test at St George’s Park with the young Titans seamer picking up five wickets in the process.
Oliver could therefore come into the reckoning, especially after the Knights seamer impressed for South Africa A in the tour match against the Aussies in Benoni last month. The right-armer claimed six wickets in the match, including the scalp of Australia’s highest run-scorer Usman Khawaja in PE on two occasions.
Morris, meanwhile, has returned to domestic cricket with gusto since been ordered to “get some consistency in his bowling” by Proteas coach Ottis Gibson after the India limited-overs series. Although the all-rounder did not play for the Titans against the Cobras at Paarl this past weekend, he has claimed a four-wicket haul and struck a century in Sunfoil Series cricket since Gibson’s instructions.
“Circumstances have forced us to name a large squad at this stage so that we can cover all possible options,” South Africa’s chairman of selectors Linda Zondi said.
“We have retained the 15 players who produced an excellent performance to level the Test series in Port Elizabeth. Olivier was the pick of our bowlers for South Africa A in their tour match against Australia, while Morris has been in excellent form in domestic cricket.”
Proteas Test squad:
Faf du Plessis (capt), Hashim Amla (Cape Cobras), Temba Bavuma (Cape Cobras), Quinton de Kock (Titans), Theunis de Bruyn (Knights), AB de Villiers (Titans), Dean Elgar (Titans), Heinrich Klaasen (Titans), Keshav Maharaj (Dolphins), Aiden Markram (Titans), Morne Morkel (Titans), Chris Morris (Titans), Wiaan Mulder (Highveld Lions), Lungisani Ngidi (Titans), Duanne Olivier (Knights), Vernon Philander (Cape Cobras), Kagiso Rabada (Highveld Lions).