Dale Steyn is in doubt for the New Year's Test in Cape Town, after he was ruled out of bowling for the remainder of the ongoing Durban Test with a shoulder strain. A scan during the third day's play, when Steyn had to leave the field twice, was "inconclusive". It showed no tear to the muscles, tendons or ligaments around his right shoulder, but Steyn is still experiencing discomfort and remains "touch and go" for the second Test.
Steyn returned from seven weeks of recovery after he sustained a groin strain in the first Test against India in Mohali. In Durban, he bowled 25.1 overs in England's first innings - a workload large enough to cause another, unrelated injury. He experienced pain in his right shoulder on the first day of the match but resumed bowling on the second morning. It was only on the third afternoon that he was forced off after bowling 3.2 overs in the second innings and clutching his shoulder in pain. He was not taken for a scan immediately. Instead, with a view to not being penalised for being off the field if he could bowl, Steyn stayed on the park and then delivered three more balls only to leave again in the 21st over.
At that point, he was taken for the scan but on his return, he was back on the field again. He threw underarm and with his left arm for the rest of the day. He was due to test his fitness on the fourth morning to see if he could take any further part in the match but, after experiencing more discomfort, was ruled out of action for the rest of the match. With only two days between the Boxing Day and Cape Town Tests, Steyn will be in a race against time to determine whether he can play the second Test.
If Steyn is unable to play in Cape Town, 20-year-old tearaway Kagiso Rabada will fill in as the third paceman and Morne Morkel will be tasked with leading an attack that will also include Kyle Abbott. South Africa will probably also look for cover in the form of some of their franchise players, which could put Hardus Viljoen in line for a maiden call-up. The Lions quick took ten wickets in a first-class match last week and has already taken six in this week's fixture. Marchant de Lange and Chris Morris are other options South Africa will consider.
What will concern the management more than the selection conundrum is that this is Steyn's ninth injury in the last two-and-half-years, and second in successive series. Already, questions have been raised about his long-term future after suggestions in an Afrikaans newspaper Rapport that he may retire from the longest format.
Workloads have been a central theme in South Africa over the last few days. The same publication made stronger claims that AB de Villiers is considering calling it a day because of a cluttered schedule and general unhappiness with the current set-up.