Russell Domingo's first assignment as South Africa's head coach has just become tougher. Already without pace spearhead Dale Steyn, Domingo could find also himself minus both Morne Morkel and Lonwabo Tsotsobe, who picked up injuries in Sri Lanka.
Morkel bowled only three overs in the warm-up match against the Sri Lankan Board President's XI on Wednesday before leaving the field with a quad niggle. He was assessed today and was still experiencing tightness. He will have to be relooked at on Friday in order to determine his availability for Saturday's first ODI.
The concern over Morkel is that the injury has occurred in the same quad which was affected during the Champions Trophy last month. Morkel was ruled out of the tournament after South Africa's first match against India, in which he did not bowl his full quota of overs, and sent home for a three-week rehabilitation program. On the team's departure last Sunday, Mohammed Moosajee, the team doctor and manager, said Morkel had made a full recovery.
Tsotsobe's worry appears to be more serious. He did not play in the warm-up and CSA officials in South Africa confirmed he suffered a recurrence of the ankle impingement syndrome that plagued him last season. They said he was receiving treatment in Sri Lanka. They would not confirm whether a report in a local newspaper, which revealed Tsotsobe had traveled unfit, was true.
Instead, CSA only said, "all players have to be signed off by the medical committee." The Citizen reported that Tsotsobe was given the green light even though he failed a fitness test conducted pre-tour. Signs of Tsotsobe struggling were evident during the Champions Trophy. Although he played in all South Africa's games, he only bowled five overs in the semi-final against England.
Tsotsobe's franchise coach at the Lions, Geoffrey Toyana, confirmed to ESPNCricinfo that the left-armer was "in good shape" before the tournament. He was training at the Wanderers, bowling well and at full fitness. He has not had communication with Tsotsobe since then.
Should Tsotsobe only become available to play later in the tour, as The Citizen suggested, Domingo's options for the opening exchanges will be limited. He will have to choose from a largely inexperienced pack with Rory Kleinveldt, Chris Morris and Ryan McLaren as the only seam options.
With the first match on Saturday, there will be no time to fly in a replacement. If one is needed as the tour goes on, South Africa's choices are also not as vast as they would like them to be. Wayne Parnell, who is part of the T20 squad, is recovering from a groin niggle and will have to be re-evaluated before he leaves for Sri Lanka. It is unlikely he will be available for the ODIs.
Marchant de Lange and Kyle Abbott are involved with the South African A side that will play first-class matches against Australia A. Ostensibly, either of them could be pulled out and sent to Sri Lanka but de Lange is also in the final stages of complete recovery from stress fractures and Abbott's inexperience may only add to the existing worries.
Conditions may help ease the concern with South Africa likely to consider two specialist spinners in the starting XI. That would mean both Robin Peterson and Aaron Phangiso will play. JP Duminy also provides a slower bowling option.