Steyn likely to be fit for final game
South Africa's hopes of reaching the Champions Trophy semi-finals received a boost with the news that pace spearhead Dale Steyn is likely to be fit for their virtual quarter-final against West Indies on June 14. Given their poor record in knockout matches, South Africa will look to the experience of their best bowler to help them win.
Today, Steyn bowled at full pace for the first time since straining his side in last Monday's warm-up match against Pakistan at The Oval. He missed South Africa's first two matches of the tournament while undergoing rest and rehabilitation, which has so far gone according to plan.
"Dale is progressing quite well. He came through his net session today without any discomfort," Mohammed Moosajee, South Africa's team manager, who is also a doctor, said. "We will watch him overnight to see if he wakes up with any stiffness. If he comes through tomorrow's practice then he should be available."
If Steyn is fit, South Africa will have something of a selection dilemma. Their three seamers - Lonwabo Tsotsobe, Chris Morris and Ryan McLaren - performed admirably against Pakistan. If the team management's hand was forced, Morris would probably be culled purely because of his inexperience.
Morris understands that, and promised that if he was benched, South Africa, could be assured of having a "bloody good 12th man," in him, similar to what Steyn was against Pakistan. Not only did he carry on refreshments for his team-mates, he also regularly relayed instructions.
"He was loving it. There was a stage where he threw a bit of abuse at one of the batsmen. That's Dale's character," Morris revealed. "He was brilliant. He kept reminding us, 'There's a run-out coming'. He kept encouraging us. He's a ball of energy."
Steyn's involvement is the embodiment of what South Africa have called their team culture since Kirsten took over two years ago. It centres on inclusiveness and knowledge sharing, and with South Africa at a crunch stage of a major tournament, Steyn could provide plenty of the latter.
"Gary has placed a lot of emphasis on the reserve guys playing a massive part. Having Dale run out there with ideas and options is massively important. He has played with and against a lot of these guys for a number of years so the information and the guidance he offers is invaluable," Russell Domingo, Kirsten's successor and the current assistant coach, said. "The guys feed off Dale. He is a mentor, a great leader of the bowling unit, and he is just a good bloke, so guys enjoy getting advice from him."
For that reason, should Steyn be declared fit, it is far more likely that South Africa will play all four seamers and leave out one of their specialist spinners, as they did in the first match against India in Cardiff. Left-arm spinners Robin Peterson and Aaron Phangiso played alongside JP Duminy in Birmingham on a pitch that took turn, but South Africa are not expecting similar conditions at Sophia Gardens, despite the role spinners have played in the competition thus far.
"Everyone expected the ball to swing a bit more than it has. Maybe because of the cold conditions, the ball hasn't done as much as we thought," Domingo said. "I know they are saying this is quite a dry June, so that's showing in the wickets. The spinners are in the game big time.
"It's been a while since South Africa played three spinners so I'd say it has been a bit surprising that the ball hasn't done more in the first 20 overs. But this wicket lends itself to a little bit more pace and bounce than Birmingham, and with the overhead conditions around, the ball might do something. The wicket might be a little bit sportier."
With South Africa hopeful their seamers will come into the game more, they will have to decide which spinner to leave out. Despite Phangiso bowling his full quota of 10 overs against Pakistan, as opposed to Robin Peterson's four, it appears Phangiso will carry drinks. "Robbie is a big wicket-taker, a big-game player, and has contributed in every aspect: batting, bowling, fielding," Domingo said, while also confirming Peterson is not carrying any niggles, and had not bowled his quota for tactical reasons only.
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent