South Africa's captain Graeme Smith will almost certainly miss the third Test in Cape Town after suffering a fracture to his right hand during South Africa's first innings at Kingsmead. Smith is likely to miss two to three weeks with what was diagnosed as an undisplaced fracture at the base of his little finger.
He suffered the blow while fending off a rising 150kph ball from Mitchell Johnson in the third over of South Africa's first innings and he did not face another delivery before retiring hurt for 2. The South Africans, who have no official vice-captain with Ashwell Prince not in the side, have yet to decide who will lead the team in the field in the second innings.
The incident was a virtual mirror image of what happened in the memorable Sydney Test in January, when a brutal Johnson ball gave Smith a similar fracture in almost exactly the same spot on his left hand. Smith returned at the fall of the ninth wicket at the SCG in a brave but unsuccessful attempt to save the Test, before he took a month off to let the injury heal properly.
Smith might attempt to bat in the second innings in Durban if, as at Sydney, his team has any chance of saving or winning the game. But despite the long gap between Tests he is unlikely to play the third Test in Cape Town, which begins on March 19, and South Africa are aiming to have him available for the one-day series that follows.
"It's a huge blow for us to have our captain out of the side, especially for the last Test," the spinner Paul Harris said. "It's a massive blow. But he'll be there with us in the change-room I'm sure for the last Test and for this Test and giving us his guidance as he normally does and giving us his pep-talks as he normally does. We'll have to make do without him and unfortunately that's the way it is."