Boucher to play despite finger injury
Mark Boucher, the South Africa wicketkeeper, is expected to be fit for the deciding ODI against Australia on Friday, despite a minor injury picked up in the nets on Thursday. A delivery from Wayne Parnell struck Boucher on the right index finger, but he returned to continue batting after receiving treatment and team management are confident he will play.
"He is in a bit of discomfort but it's nothing untoward and he should be fine," Mohammad Moosajee, the team manager, said. "If we need to investigate it will be post tomorrow's game."
No replacement has been named for Boucher, but Moosajee said contingency plans are in place should Boucher be unavailable. "It would be up to the selectors to decide who to fly out, but we don't have any concerns."
Boucher has been going through extra drills in training with the assistance of Ray Jennings, the ex-South Africa wicketkeeper and coach. Jennings, who also coached Boucher at Royal Challengers Bangalore, joined the team on Wednesday and had an individual session with Boucher before the team's practice. Boucher arrived at Kingsmead early and spent two hours with Jennings.
"He came before the rest of the team and wanted to do some work," Jennings told ESPNcricinfo. "It was basically to sharpen up, clear the head and reconsolidate his thought patterns, not anything specific." Jennings said he had expected Boucher to be "tired" after their extended session, but was pleasantly surprised when Boucher returned on Thursday for a one-and-a-half hour workout.
"At no stage did I have to push him, he is a real fighter," Jennings said. "He is motivated enough and hungry enough and he wants to do whatever he can to hold on to his spot."
Boucher was recalled to the ODI squad after AB de Villiers' injured his hand during the Champions League T20. Boucher had last played in the 50-over format in May last year against the West Indies. His inclusion for the series against Australia was talked about as a temporary move but Boucher has expressed his determination to continue playing for South Africa in all formats of the game.
He has taken one catch and scored 14 runs in the series so far but missed two stumpings in the second match in Port Elizabeth and is said to be concerned about his form. With question marks surrounding his age and the amount of time he has left as an international player, Boucher has sought to fend off suggestions that he is closing in on the end of his career and Jennings believes he still has a lot to offer. "He is still the most experienced wicketkeeper in the country and is the biggest threat to the opposition."
Boucher's value as a seasoned international campaigner and one of the stalwarts of the South African team has also come in handy, in the absence of de Villiers. South Africa's stand-in captain Hashim Amla said that Boucher was a "valuable asset" to the team and was heartened by Boucher's desire to keep improving. "He [Boucher] is a world-class player himself and for him to get assistance from somebody shows a lot of humility."
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent