Dale Steyn is expected to put himself in contention for selection in South Africa's Test side for the series against Bangladesh, if he plays in the opening round of first-class fixtures starting next Tuesday. Steyn, who is five wickets away from becoming South Africa's leading wicket-taker in Tests, has been out of action since breaking a bone in his shoulder last November in Australia. His comeback was delayed several times over a lengthy rehabilitation period, which concluded last month.
On August 17, Steyn posted a photograph of himself in wicket-taking celebration mode on Instagram with the caption, "The wait is over." It's been almost a month since but Steyn is now ready to return, across all formats. Apart from his international ambitions, Steyn has also been bought by the Cape Town Knight Riders franchise in the Global T20 League, which starts in November.
But before Steyn can participate in high-profile cricket, he will have to prove his fitness for his domestic franchise, starting next week. Selection convener Linda Zondi confirmed that any player participating in the matches, "will be considered for the Test side." Since there is only one round of first-class matches before the Test series against Bangladesh begins, performances will have to be immediate and outstanding in order for players to force their way into the national side.
Steyn has opted to represent Titans, the team where he started his career after six seasons at Cape Cobras, which means the team could have as many as five Test internationals in their XI to play against Dolphins next week. Steyn will be joined by Morne Morkel and Faf du Plessis, who are scheduled to return from the World XI matches in Pakistan during the weekend, along with opening batsmen Dean Elgar and Heino Kuhn, who had a wretched debut series in England.
Kuhn is under pressure from team-mate Aiden Markram, who will be captaining the South Africa invitation side against the touring Bangladesh team but will not play in the franchise first-class matches since the fixtures clash, as well as from Stephen Cook, the man Kuhn replaced in the Test side. Cook, who was Player of the Series after averaging 106.67 in the recently-completed series against India A, has resolved to get his Test spot back.
The opening position is perhaps the only one up for discussion ahead of the Bangladesh Tests. Other concerns around the batting line-up are only likely to be addressed later in the summer, when AB de Villiers makes himself available for selection. De Villiers has been on a Test sabbatical since suffering an elbow injury last August and though he has played limited-overs cricket for South Africa, he is only aiming for a longer-form comeback from mid-October. With the Bangladesh series scheduled to end on October 10, de Villiers' Test return will only come later in this season, when South Africa are due to host India and Australia. As a result, de Villiers may not play in the opening round of first-class matches.
South Africa's new coach Ottis Gibson will arrive in the country next Monday, on the eve of the first-class fixtures. It is understood that on Gibson's request all national players have had to avail themselves to their franchises for the week, in order to get some game time before the two Tests against Bangladesh.
South Africa will announce their Test squad for the two-match series, which starts on September 28, at the conclusion of the first-class matches next Friday.