South Africa hope for Steyn present
South Africa coach Mickey Arthur is confident Dale Steyn will be fit to resume his new-ball duties in the second Test at Durban. The fast bowler came through 10 overs on Wednesday without any reaction and the hosts hope to make a final decision on Christmas Day.
Steyn was ruled out shortly before the toss at Centurion after pulling up stiff on the morning of the game, which allowed Friedel de Wet to make his debut and the 29-year-old produced a stunning new-ball burst on the final afternoon to almost snatch victory. However, despite an impressive first appearance, de Wet would be the man to miss out if Steyn makes his return.
"Dale has come on nicely," Arthur said. "We will still wait and see on that department. He bowled 10 overs at virtually full pace yesterday and there's been no comeback so I'm pretty sure he'll be fit to take his place. We certainly don't want to be going in as we were at Centurion where everything seems fine then he was tight on the morning of the game. We'd certainly like to take the call on Dale tomorrow."
De Wet's performance has bolstered South Africa's quick-bowling ranks and prompted speculation over the future of Makhaya Ntini who managed just two wickets in his 100th Test. Arthur, though, added his complete backing of Ntini to that of Graeme Smith on Wednesday, but is delighted that the first-choice quicks are being put under pressure by the emergence of new names.
"Ntini has taken some flak and I'm not 100% sure why," Arthur said. "I thought he did a fairly decent job for us. He performed a role, but I guess there was always going to be the speculation once Friedel rocked up and nearly bowled us to victory. The whole bowling unit will feel it now, not just Makhaya.
"Friedel was fantastic and it puts another guy in the queue. It's another guy we have given a match to and he has shown what he can do. He puts a lot of pressure on the other bowlers to perform. But we'll probably go back to our tried and tested for what is a really important Test.
"They all know a guy is in the wings waiting for an opportunity and that's a really healthy position. I don't mind there being some pressure on the bowlers, but those who are playing know they have the full backing of myself and Graeme."
Arthur is also keen to reunite the attack that played such a key role in propelling South Africa to No. 1 in the world now that Morne Morkel is also back in the line-up having been dropped for the final Test against Australia in March.
"We still back Makhaya hugely and we go back to the success we've had in recent times - it has come from an attack of Steyn, Ntini, Morkel, Harris and Kallis so I can't see us differing too much from that if all things are equal," he said. "Morne is a genuine wicket-taker and gets good players out. There were some very good spells and some mediocre ones [at Centurion] but he's coming on leaps and bounds and troubles most batters around the world. And if we can get Dale back with his swing we look a really good attack again."
The fifth member of the attack, Jacques Kallis, will be treated carefully as he continues to recover from his rib injury although could take on an increased workload. He bowled three gentle overs on the final day at Centurion, but showed his immense value to the side as a batsman with 120 in the first innings and Arthur doesn't want to risk aggravating the injury.
"Jacques we'll be a little bit conservative with. As a fifth bowler you aren't looking for too many overs and we wouldn't want to push him and risk further injury down the line," he said. "But he's looking okay as well so hopefully we can get maybe 12 overs from him in a day."
Andrew McGlashan is assistant editor of Cricinfo