Tahir, Dane Piedt return to SA Test squad
Imran Tahir and Dane Piedt were recalled to South Africa's Test squad to form part of a trio of spinners to take on India in October and November. South Africa's 72-day tour starts with three T20s, where the only new cap across all three squads, is Dolphins' batsman Khaya Zondo, who replaced the injured Rilee Rossouw in the T20 squad. Rossouw, however, was expected to be fit in time for the ODIs that follow. The rest of the T20, ODI and Test outfits include the regulars with AB de Villiers back in whites after paternity leave, Quinton de Kock included for the limited-overs' matches but not the Tests where Dane Vilas will keep the gloves, and Chris Morris who has also been included for the white-ball formats.
The spin section, particularly for the Tests, was the most debated aspect of the squads because South Africa have struggled to settle on a specialist in the role. Over the last year, all of Tahir, Piedt and Simon Harmer have played, with varying degrees of success and will now compete for a spot in the starting XI. South Africa are still likely to only field one spinner with JP Duminy also providing a spinning option in Tests.
Harmer is the incumbent after playing in the last series against Bangladesh, while Piedt could come into contention after performing well on South Africa A's recent trip to India and Tahir provides an attacking option, making sure South Africa have all bases covered. "When we look back five years ago with South Africa, we struggled with spinners and now we've got a volume of spinners coming through," Linda Zondi, South Africa's convener of selectors said. "To go with three spinners is vital for the captain and the coach to have enough options. Dane Piedt and Simon Harmer are perceived as holding spinners and then we've got Imran who is an attacking spinner. We are very confident in them all; having three spinners is something we haven't done in a long time and its a positive message from the selection panel that we are trying to pick players based on the conditions."
That justification could be seen as a reason for the selectors to have slotted de Kock, who scored 354 runs in four matches at an average of 70.80 including three centuries on South Africa A's visit to India, straight back into the Test side too but they stopped short of doing that in order to give Vilas a sustained run. Vilas played just one Test in Bangladesh and did not get the chance to bat after four days were washed out and Zondi wants to see what he can offer at the highest level.
"It's important for us as a new selection panel to make sure we are consistent in our selection and that's the reason for Vilas being included. He did not have much game time in Bangladesh and we want to make sure that we back players," Zondi said, before reassuring de Kock the door is still open for him. "With Quinton, we weren't worried about his keeping that much, we were worried about his runs and he has done the job there. We are optimistic that going forward he will come back in the Test side. That's why we brought him in the T20s and ODIs."
De Kock will return to opening the batting in the shorter formats but may not be behind the stumps in T20s, where South Africa will continue to trial the idea of de Villiers keeping ahead of the World T20. "AB keeping in T20s hasn't changed but it's vital for us to give the coach more options. We decided that was one of the plans - to make sure AB continued to keep because he is going to give us balance - so that the option is still there," Zondi said. "The thinking behind it is that if AB plays then AB can play a keeping role and open the batting but if Quinny (de Kock) plays, it will be up to Russell to see where Quinny can fit in."
It may be difficult to find a spot for de Kock in the T20s, especially with the inclusion of Zondo, who will take up a middle-order position. Zondo, who bats at No. 5 for his franchise, was South Africa's second-highest run-scorer in the A team triangular series in India, behind de Kock. His domestic record may not immediately explain his selection - Zondo has a List A average of 27.84 and although he has a T20 hundred to his name, he scored just 131 runs from 10 matches in last season's domestic T20 competition but Zondi explained that his performances with A side were convincing enough.
"With the whole pipeline, it's important that the guys that are playing for SA A are in our minds. It's important to reward guys who have done well for SA A. For now, it's an entry level for Khaya to get into the T20 set-up. He has done well in the fifty-over matches for SA A and it's important for us to look at the players who have done well in the conditions we are going to play in," Zondi said.
That was also not enough to save Aaron Phangiso, who did well in the T20s in Bangladesh but has not been included in the T20 squad for India with Eddie Leie preferred to partner Tahir. However, Phangiso is in the ODI squad, where David Wiese misses out after an indifferent showing against New Zealand. Morris has been tasked with the allrounder role alongside Farhaan Behardien while Wayne Parnell has been left out of all the squads.
South Africa will also continue with their policy of resting key members of the pace pack in limited-overs matches with Vernon Philander not included in the ODI squad and Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel both left out of the T20s. That should mean more game time for Kyle Abbott and, in the T20s, Marchant de Lange, who was recalled after an impressive Caribbean Premier League campaign.
South Africa Test squad: Hashim Amla (capt), AB de Villiers, Temba Bavuma, JP Duminy, Faf du Plessis, Dean Elgar, Simon Harmer, Imran Tahir, Morne Morkel, Vernon Philander, Dane Piedt, Kagiso Rabada, Dale Steyn, Stiaan van Zyl, Dane Vilas.
ODI squad: AB de Villiers (capt), Kyle Abbott, Hashim Amla, Farhaan Behardien, Quinton de Kock, JP Duminy, Faf du Plessis, Imran Tahir, David Miller, Morne Morkel, Chris Morris, Aaron Phangiso, Kagiso Rabada, Rilee Rossouw, Dale Steyn.
T20 squad: Faf du Plessis (capt), Kyle Abbott, Hashim Amla, Farhaan Behardien, Quinton de Kock, Marchant de Lange, AB de Villiers, JP Duminy, Imran Tahir, Eddie Leie, David Miller, Chris Morris, Kagiso Rabada, David Wiese, Khaya Zondo
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent