Injury concern for Steyn, de Kock joins squad as de Villiers' cover
A hat-trick of concerns descended on South Africa two days before their Champions Trophy opener against India on Thursday. Dale Steyn is in doubt for the match with a side strain, Quinton de Kock has unofficially joined the group as cover for AB de Villiers and first-choice spinner Robin Peterson suffered a blow to the left foot.
Steyn's injury appears to be the most serious. He could only bowl five overs in Monday's warm-up match against Pakistan at the Oval before he left the field in obvious discomfort. He was taken for an MRI scan which revealed "mild swelling in a left-intercostal muscle," according to team manager Mohammed Moosajee.
South Africa will take a call on Steyn's availability as late as possible to give the paceman as much time as they can to recover. Should he be ruled out, the side will be without their bowling spearhead whose form at the IPL (19 wickets in 17 games at 20.21) was promising. Rory Kleinveldt is likely to replace him to form a three-pronged seam attack with Morne Morkel and Lonwabo Tsotsobe.
While Steyn's case is straightforward, de Villiers' is more complicated. CSA did not state exactly why he needs cover in their statement. After clarification was sought by ESPNcricinfo, Moosajee revealed the captain is "absolutely fine" and said it was "always part of the plan" to include de Kock, because it would be logistically easier to have him around should de Villiers suffer a last-minute injury.
However, if de Kock needs to play he will still need approval from the ICC's event technical committee because he is not a part of the 15-man squad. According to Moosajee, de Kock was aware he would be in England even before he went to the IPL, where he played three matches for Sunrisers Hyderabad and scored six runs. His domestic franchise, the Lions, however, were not aware of any national call-up when contacted earlier this morning.
Worth remembering here, among the unclear circumstances surrounding de Kock's call-up, is that de Villiers has a history of chronic back problems which flare up after he has played for a long period of time. He came through a full IPL and took part in South Africa's two warm-up matches, against the Netherlands and Pakistan. He did not bat in the first match but kept wicket in both.
De Villiers did not appear to experience any problems apart from one incident when he addressed the media after the Pakistan game. Although not audible at the event, on recordings of the press conference he can he heard whispering "Eina" (Afrikaans for "Ouch") as he sat down. There may be nothing to that or it may explain why a nervous looking de Villiers chewed his nails for a significant part of the interaction.
Should he become unavailable, the side will be without their captain and most experienced batsman. Faf du Plessis, who is the Twenty20 captain, would most likely to step in with de Kock taking de Villiers' place behind the stumps and in the batting line-up.
Peterson's niggle is not a cause for worry. He was hit on the left foot while batting during the Pakistan match and could not bowl because of the swelling. He has responded to overnight treatment and should be able to play but South Africa have Aaron Phangiso in reserve, if Peterson is unfit.
South Africa's three group stage matches take place in eight days, so the severity of the injuries could significantly impact their hopes of making the semi-finals.
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent