Smith targets October return
Graeme Smith, South Africa's injured Test captain, is aiming for a return to action in the team's next Test series, against Pakistan in October. Smith suffered a recurrence of an ankle injury that has plagued him throughout his career in May and was ruled out of cricket for at least five months.
At the time, Smith was playing for Surrey and had to return home for surgery. He missed the Champions Trophy and will sit out of the upcoming limited-overs tour to Sri Lanka in order to make a full recovery. As matters stand, that looks set to be earlier than initial estimates with the trip to the UAE a definite possibility for Smith to make his return.
Smith has made "steady progress" according to South Africa's team manager and doctor Mohammed Moosajee and the management team are "aiming to have him for the Pakistan series". His cast came off two-and-half-weeks ago and he has been walking on crutches since the last week of June. He is expected to use them until the first week in August, when he should be able to walk on his own.
Smith's wife, Morgan, is due to give birth to the couple's second child this week. She wrote on a blog for You magazine that Smith has "just started rehab on his ankle so he is going to be mobile again pretty soon, which will be perfect timing for when the new baby arrives".
Although Smith is not captain in the shorter formats, his absence has been noticeable. South Africa have struggled to find a suitable partner for Hashim Amla in the 50-overs format and will head to Sri Lanka with that as one of their major concerns.
Their options are between Smith's Test opening partner Alviro Petersen, who was drafted into the Champions Trophy squad but did not play a game, and young wicketkeeper-batsman Quinton de Kock. Colin Ingram, who filled the role during the Champions Trophy, is not expected to continue in it.
While South Africa would value Smith's presence in the one-day team, it is far more important to them to have him for Test matches. Not only has he been the leader of the Test side for a decade but he led them to No. 1 in the world last year and has spoken about his ambitions to keep them there.
South Africa have not played a Test since defeating Pakistan 3-0 in a series at home in March and will make a return to the format after eight months in October. They play two Tests in the UAE, which will be new coach Russell Domingo's first longer-format assignment and Smith's presence would be a huge boost.
Moosajee confirmed the support staff are working toward that. "He has three months to go and we will have to take a call closer to the time but we are hopeful he will be able to play in that series," he said. "He is doing well so far and we will continue to monitor him."
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent