South Africa v England, 3rd Test, Johannesburg January 5, 2016

Steyn on course for Wanderers comeback


Dale Steyn suffered a shoulder injury during the Durban Test © Getty Images

Dale Steyn gave South Africa's pace pack a boost ahead of the third Test in Johannesburg by resuming bowling on Tuesday. However, Vernon Philander remains a doubt as he is still recovering from torn ankle ligaments.

Steyn, who injured his shoulder during the Boxing Day match and sat out the current Test at Cape Town, tweeted his delight at getting back into the nets. "Start bowling again today. #lekker," he posted. He was also spotted at Newlands on Monday with Kyle Abbott, who also appears to have regained fitness after sitting out this match with a hamstring niggle.

If Steyn is fully fit, he would slot straight back into the XI even though South Africa will be concerned about how much he will be able to give them. Steyn has been injured nine times in the last two-and-a-half years, has sat out four of their last six Tests, and his problems seem to stem from each other.

He missed three of the four matches in India after suffering a groin strain in the first Test which ultimately resulted in seven weeks on the sidelines. That lengthy period of time off the field contributed to the shoulder problem, caused from heavy bowling loads in the Durban Test after a period of rest. Even though South Africa would be running the same risk by playing Steyn at the Wanderers, given the resources they have at their disposal, they may not have any other choice.

Philander looks unlikely to be ready for that match even though his projected recovery period of between six and eight weeks comes to an end on Thursday. He will not be playing in the round of first-class matches that starts on that day and will need to have some match fitness before he can be considered for a Test comeback. He could play in the following week's fixture which starts on the same day as the Wanderers Test on January 14 and put himself into contention for the final Test at Centurion at the end of the month.

Given that Philander could still feature in the series at some stage, he is likely to be named in the squad for the last two Tests, which will be announced by the South African selectors at the end of the Newlands Test and before the first-class matches which begin on Thursday. That will leave the selectors with no time to assess the performances of JP Duminy, Rilee Rossouw and Hardus Viljoen, who were all released from the national squad to play in those matches.

Duminy and Rossouw may not find a space in the Test XI after South Africa's line-up re-found their form on a flat pitch but Viljoen may be retained in the squad, ahead of Chris Morris, who had a forgettable debut. The Wanderers is Viljoen's home ground and he took 20 wickets in two games there in the first two first-class matches of the season.

There is a change expected in the batting department with Stiaan van Zyl likely to be sent back to his franchise and a new opener called up for the final two Tests. Stephen Cook is the obvious candidate but there are other options in Rossouw or de Kock, albeit in a makeshift capacity.

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dwain on January 6, 2016, 15:24 GMT

    Rabada will make way for Steyn. Morris brings balance to the team with his batting so the selectors will stick with him and they wouldn't want to play without a spinner. So Viljoen might be the unlucky bowler to miss out. Van Zyl might also come under pressure because it just so happens that it is Cook's homeground.

  • Brokensaint on January 6, 2016, 12:53 GMT

    Morris has been really good in this innings guys. that being said we need shock pace at the bull ring maybe drop piedt for viljoen and blast the English with pace.

  • Guru on January 6, 2016, 12:29 GMT

    Let's hope that the conditions at Wanderers are favorable to Steyn. Otherwise the poor guy would be forced to injure himself yet again and retire. Nothing as good as injury to help maintain your record in unhelpful conditions.

  • Wesley on January 6, 2016, 11:21 GMT

    The best wicket keeper in South Africa is Rudi Second, how many more runs does he have to crush to get a look in. De Kock is nothing with the gloves Second is a genuine long term gloveman and de Kock can try focus on batting only. 26yo, avg of 48 in first class.

    Another classy player is Dwaine Pretorious.

  • Paul on January 6, 2016, 8:28 GMT

    Please not us not see Abbott and Morris, surely it makes more sense to bowl out a team for not much than having a bowler who can score some runs, when not operating his pie shop on the field.

  • dj on January 6, 2016, 8:12 GMT

    We are missing a trick if we don't play Hardus at the bullring.He's been in fantastic form and we need to bowl out England twice to have any chance of drawing or winning this series.

  • Varun on January 6, 2016, 5:39 GMT

    There is no need to include Steyn in the 3rd Test..though SA..trailing in this series. But, he should rested for whole series..n fit completely..n..dis also for Philander..too. There is no advantage of a bowler, who bowl for 2-3 session at max...n injured for whole match..causes..big disadvantage for the side. And, yes..time comes that he..should opt either Odis, T20s n Tests..or IPL. Otherwise, these things happen again n again..

  • John Straight on January 5, 2016, 22:53 GMT

    De Kock is talented. He will be will silence the critics, his pulling is a problem but other than that he is the future. Duminy after his 160 against Australia he has been nothing and should be dropped. Morris batted well on a batting wicket, but his bowling is inconsistent. Rabada is also a very good future prospect, but his length is a real problem and with Amla not understanding feild setting, makes mattets even worse. Hardus Viljoen is a decent bowler than can get you a test win. He deserves than chance now. I would either rest Van Zyl or bat him lower down. He is not an opener and would be very unlucky to be dropped. Lets not forget his 100 down the order against the WI and thereafter was thrown in to open. My best side for Wanderers would be Elgar, Van Zyl, Amla, AB, Faf, Bavuma, De Kock, Rabada, Steyn, Morkel, Viljoen. SA will not need a spinner. Elgar must bowl a few overs. Bavuma also now that he has the confidence should open the innings and Van Zyl come in down the order.

  • Dayne on January 5, 2016, 22:21 GMT

    I would love to see the son of the great Jimmy cook, Stephen cook make his debut. He has been overlooked for far too long and I believe he will add great value. Van zyl perhaps will contribute one day but he seems to lack the confidence needed in top level cricket.

  • greig on January 5, 2016, 21:16 GMT

    I think picking Abbott is a mistake for the Highveld. I think Viljeon should get the nod as he will offer a lot more of a threat and their batting ability is similar.

    1.Elgar 2.Van Zyl 3.The Mighty Hash 4.AB 5.Faff 6. Bavuma 7. De Kock 8.Steyn 9.Rabada 10.Viljeon 11.Morkel. Van Zyl and Elgar can bowl to rest the quicks, Duminy is a waste.

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