PAARL – AB de Villiers’ return to the Proteas Test squad will force the national selectors to make at least one change to the batting unit for the one-off Test against Zimbabwe in Port Elizabeth next Tuesday.
But instead of anxiously waiting that he may be the batsman considered surplus to requirements for the inaugural four-day floodlit Test to accommodate De Villiers, Temba Bavuma is relishing the “healthy competition”.
“I think us as players, we’re glad to have a guy like AB back,” Bavuma said at Boland Park, where he is preparing to face the tourists in a warm-up match starting on Wednesday.
“He brings a lot of experience to the team. It is always something that I can benefit from. The good thing is that I am not a selector, so I don’t have to pick the top six. I think it is healthy competition.”
De Villiers and Dale Steyn were included in South Africa’s Test squad for the day-night experiment in the Friendly City after a lengthy absence from the five-day arena.
De Villiers last played a Test in January 2016, while Steyn has not played any international cricket after suffering a shoulder injury at the Waca last November.
Fellow veteran seamers Morné Morkel and Vernon Philander also return after recovering from a side strain and sore back respectively, which leaves no place for all-rounder Chris Morris.
“It is a very exciting moment not just for South Africa, but for world cricket to have Dale and AB, two icons of the game, back in the multi-day format,” national convener of selectors Linda Zondi said.
“After Zimbabwe, we have two very tough home Test Series coming up against India, the No 1-ranked side in the world, and Australia, who have just regained the Ashes in their current series against England.
“AB and Dale bring loads of experience to the side apart from being two of the South African all-time greats.
“It is also good to have Vernon back, and it is very encouraging that our four premium fast bowlers (Steyn, Philander, Kagiso Rabada and Morkel) are all back in the selection mix.”
De Villiers, Morris, Steyn and Bavuma were all due to be put through their paces in the longer format this week here in the winelands against the Zimbabweans, but it is only the latter two who will now be present at Boland Park.
According to team doctor and manager Mohammed Moosajee, De Villiers and Morris were withdrawn due to lower back and groin strains respectively, but the former Proteas captain is still available for selection for Zimbabwe Test.
Bavuma, however, is keen to make the most of the game time after a stop-start RamSlam T20 campaign with the Cobras that came to a disappointing end in a washed-out semi-final in Durban.
“It (the T20) probably didn’t start off too well and probably didn’t end off well either. I was able to make contributions to the team, but nothing to write home about. I am quite disappointed in how it finished individually, and obviously as a team.
“I was selected in this game. The selectors felt I needed time in the middle, so it is a good way to get back into the longer format of the game.
“I haven’t really thought about it (making a statement in the game) this way. I am in the Test squad. Whatever happens, happens. I am going to use it for time in the middle.”
Proteas Test Squad
Faf du Plessis (captain), Hashim Amla, Temba Bavuma, Quinton de Kock, Theunis de Bruyn, AB de Villiers, Dean Elgar, Keshav Maharaj, Aiden Markram, Morné Morkel, Andile Phehlukwayo, Vernon Philander, Kagiso Rabada, Dale Steyn.
Revised SA Invitation XI Squad
Dominic Hendricks (captain), Temba Bavuma, Tladi Bokako, Michael Cohen, Isaac Dikgale, Leus du Plooy, Dayyaan Galiem, Zubayr Hamza, Kagiso Rapulana, Kelly Smuts, Dale Steyn, Ricardo Vasconcelos, Shaun von Berg, Lizaad Williams.