South Africa have called wicketkeeper-batsman Quinton de Kock into their squad for the second Test against England in Cape Town providing a clear indication that AB de Villiers will be relieved of the gloves following the 241-run defeat in Durban. Chris Morris, the quick bowler, has also been brought in to bolster the pace stocks following the injury to Dale Steyn.
A third change sees Lions' quick Hardus Vijoen placed on standby after two successive ten-wicket hauls. Unlike Morris, Viljoen has not officially been called up but has been told to stay ready in case he is needed - further suggesting Steyn will not be passed it. Viljoen's franchise team-mate, opening batsman, Stephen Cook has missed out.
De Kock scored a century in the recent round of Sunfoil four-day matches to follow a half-century he made against England for South Africa A in Pietermaritzburg. He played the last of his six Test against Bangladesh, in Chittagong, in July and has an average of 33.00. Stephen Cook, the opening batsman, was another option to bolster the batting after he made an unbeaten 168 for Lions, but was again overlooked with Stiaan van Zyl retained
De Villiers dropped two catches during England's second innings of the first Test and gave a TV interview, following speculation over his future, where he said he needed to manage his workload.
Russell Domingo, South Africa's coach, said on the prospect of de Villiers relinquishing the gloves: "It still needs to be cleared with the selectors but we are looking at that route."
Hashim Amla, South Africa's captain, added: "Having AB keep allows us to play an extra batter and he has said he will do it. We'll see how he feels at the end of today because he has had a heavy workload. Depending on how AB feels, we will decide on Quinton."
Steyn has been retained in the squad but is unlikely to be fit for the second Test and will undergo a fitness on New Year's Day in Cape Town. Kagiso Rabada, who was part of the squad for Durban, is his likely replacement but the uncapped Morris offers another option.
"We will assess Dale over the next day or two," said Domingo. "It is unlikely he will play the next Test. He has not made much Test cricket for us lately and that is a big blow."
Both Domingo and Amla were left to rue the side's continuing frailties with the bat, which finished with them losing 6 for 38 on the final morning.
"Our first innings let us down and we didn't manage to put the pressure on the English," Amla said. "I would think it is more about confidence. Once you get runs under your belt you start playing differently. We have to be quite patient with the younger guys and hopefully senior guys like myself will start getting runs for the team."
Domingo concurred: "We are not getting enough runs. There is quality batting in our line-up and hopefully we can turn that round soon. Maybe it is not a bad thing that there is a two-day turnaround so we can get on with it rather than sitting and wondering. I was expecting a lot more fight and I am disappointed with the way we have gone about it."
However, he gave his backing to the incumbent players even though the batting line-up managed just one fifty plus score in the Test. Reading between the lines, the most vulnerable of the batsmen would appear to be Temba Bavuma, who made 10 and 0 in Durban especially, as Rabada's selection to replace Steyn would maintain the quota balance. If, against the odds, Steyn is fit then it becomes a different case.
"When you have got players the calibre of Hashim Amla, JP Duminy, Faf du Plessis, with proven records, performances under pressure, big hundreds when it counts, you know they are one or two innings away from a big score and you've got to keep believing in that." he said. "Whether its five or 10 innings, I cant tell you that. You've just got to believe that they are going to make a score at some stage
"There were some glimpses of what some of the other batters are capable of. Stiaan in the second innings played really nicely. Stiaan is a very good player. He has got a hell of a first-class record. For sure, he might be batting in a position that he is not accustomed to but he has done it before at franchise level. It's such a fine line because you can't throw everybody out and bring in five new players. England would love that. Wouldn't they love to bowl to five debutants. We know we've got quality there. The key is for us to get that quality firing."