Steyn ruled out of third Test
Dale Steyn has been ruled out of the third Test against England at the Wanderers due to the shoulder injury he sustained during the opening match of the series in Durban.
There had been encouraging updates about Steyn's fitness during the Newlands Test but doubts over his recovery came when he was ruled "50-50" at the conclusion of that match and required a second opinion from another specialist on the injury. He was not with the South Africa squad in Johannesburg on Monday, instead remaining in Cape Town where he underwent a further scan.
"They are doing more scans to try and find something there," Russell Domingo, South Africa's coach said. "They are trying to find what the problem is and once they've given us that diagnosis we will be able to give you more information."
It continues a significant run of problems for Steyn, who has 406 wickets in 82 Tests, as he misses his fifth Test out of seven. Steyn sat out three of the four Tests in India with a groin injury and will now miss a second successive game against England but Domingo did not believe it pointed to a bleaker long-term future.
"I don't think it's the end of Dale Steyn's career at all," he said. "All players are going to experience some sort of niggles at some stage. He has just had a few of them of late. He is a great athlete, he is as fit as they come and these things happen. He is just going through that phase of his career at the moment and I'm sure he will get through it."
Similarly, South Africa will also have to find a way to cope and Domingo was optimistic about their depth despite his disappointment at losing Steyn. "We know he is a great bowler. He is the best bowler in the world and we haven't had him since the first Test in India. Not having him has been disappointing but there's not too much we can do. The game goes on. We've got to make do with it. It's the way it is. There's nothing we can do about it. It's an opportunity for somebody else to hopefully make a mark and strive to be as good as Dale Steyn was and is."
That somebody else will have to come out of the other five pacemen South Africa have in their squad. Morne Morkel, a fit-again Kyle Abbott, who has recovered from a hamstring niggle, Kagiso Rabada, Chris Morris and uncapped Hardus Viljoen are competing for places in the pace pack and South Africa will spend the next two days concocting a combination to try and level the series.
The first question they will face is whether to include a spinner on what is expected to be a pitch with some life for the quick bowlers. Domingo admitted he would be hesitant to go all-pace even if conditions suggested he should. "I am one of those coaches that likes to have a spinner but the Wanderers is notorious for not having a spinner," he said. "We need to look at conditions. Once we've done that, we will have a discussion with the selectors. It's not unheard of to go into a Wanderers Test without a spinner. It's often been done."
If they listen to the groundsman, Bethuel Buthelezi, it should not be done this time. Buthelezi, who is preparing his first Test pitch, has promised bounce, pace, and turn and said if it was up to him, he would play a spinner. That does not automatically mean Dane Piedt, who took three wickets at Newlands, will keep his place. South Africa could also go back to JP Duminy after he responded to being dropped from the Test XI with a career-best unbeaten 260 for Cape Cobras in a domestic first-class game last week although how he would fit into the balance of the side would be a conundrum.
"It's an outstanding performance to go back and get your career best a couple of days after you've been left out of a Test match. It speaks volumes about his character and the type of cricketer he is," Domingo said. "He is in the squad, but the selectors have not decided if he will play. We know he can also offer something with the ball."
Assuming Morkel plays, even though Domingo has mentioned he is in the "red zone" when it comes to workload, that would mean deciding between two out of Rabada, Morris, Abbott and Viljoen and it may come down to who offers more with the bat. Morris stands out after scoring 69 on debut at Newlands.
"Chris Morris is definitely somebody we are looking at to fill a role like Shaun Pollock or Lance Klusener used to do for us - a guy who can bowl really well and offer us something with the bat," Domingo said. "I was pleased with his batting performance and his bowling as well. He is a good package - he also gives something in the field."
For the sake of experience, the remaining place will probably go to one of Abbott or Rabada but Viljoen could edge ahead because of local knowledge. The Lions quick took twenty wickets in two first-class matches at the Wanderers this season which may force him into the XI. "He has got a good chance," Domingo said. "He has a great record at the Wanderers. He has been on form and there is no substitute for pace. Nobody enjoys facing pace here."