<
>

Abbott likely to replace Steyn in Hobart

Kyle Abbott could find himself back in the Test side later this week Getty Images

Kyle Abbott looks set to step into Dale Steyn's shoes in the second Test in Hobart, ahead of Morne Morkel and new call-up Dwaine Pretorius. With Morkel yet to be declared fully match fit following two months on the sidelines with a back injury and, Pretorius only due to jet in once he receives confirmation of a visa, without saying it in so many words, coach Russell Domingo indicated Abbott could complete the three-man pace pack.

"We've got two options at the moment. Kyle Abbott and Morne Morkel," Domingo said. "Morne is coming off a back injury. We'll assess him two days before the Test and make the call on whether he is 100% fit. Kyle Abbott is a consistent solid performer and has been every time he has come in.

"We need to weigh up what type of bowler we want to use under the conditions in Hobart, because I think they are different to what they are here. It's a fascinating series because all three venues have totally different conditions. I've never been to Hobart, I've heard its cold and the wickets are a little New Zealand-like, a little slower."

At the WACA pace and bounce provided what Kagiso Rabada called a "bowler's paradise," but, as Domingo said, cold, wet weather in Tasmania is unlikely to assist in the preparation of anything similar in the second Test. That may mean the pacemen have to play more defensive roles which could mean bowling longer spells. Morkel was initially left out because of concerns he would not be up for that and even though he is making progress, Abbott is regarded as more of a workhorse.

South Africa are unlikely to change from their usual combination of three seamers and a spinner, Keshav Maharaj. After a debut Test in which Maharaj had to do more than he may have bargained for in a three-man attack and did it well, and performed impressively with the bat, Tabraiz Shamsi will wait for his turn.

"Keshav Maharaj's performance has been nothing short of phenomenal considering it was his first Test," Domingo said. "He allowed seamers to have breaks when they needed to and I see him playing a massive role for this side going forward"

Still, without Morkel, South Africa's attack can be seen to lack a certain superstar status; after all Morkel and Steyn were long regarded as the golden pair. Philander proved he deserves the respect he earned when he first came in, with the way he stepped after up after Steyn went down, and Kagiso Rabada is quickly establishing himself as the leader of the attack, a label he prefers to distance himself from. But names like Abbott, Maharaj and Pretorius mean South Africa's bench is stacked with so-called unknowns and their ability to step up to the biggest stage is what has pleased Domingo.

"We've won some games of late without some of the best players in the world. We don't have AB de Villiers and we've put in some wonderful performances. At the end of the day, they are all wonderful players," Domingo said. "We've got some really good young players coming into the system and some really good young players back home. We are trying to focus on the group we have at the moment and trying to get the best out of them at the moment."

Domingo, like du Plessis had done pre-series, played down suggestions that de Villiers would make a surprise return for Adelaide after the captain told a radio station he hoped to fast-track his recovery from elbow surgery. "He has been caddying for a mate at a golf tournament," Domingo said. "I don't think he is going to be fit for Adelaide.. I am not a doctor but I can't see AB being being there."

That means the batting line-up will continue to demand more from Temba Bavuma and Quinton de Kock, who have made up for inexperience with impressive temperament. De Kock has already been compared with Adam Gilchrist and if Stephen Cook's misfiring goes on for much longer, he may be moved to the top temporarily.

South Africa also have Rilee Rossouw in hand should they want to experiment, and Pretorius' batting ability to add depth lower-down if they are unsure about the length of the tail. Pretorius has scored four half-centuries in five innings in the domestic first-class competition which put him ahead of candidates like Duanne Olivier, Marchant de Lange and Hardus Viljoen to head Down Under.