South Africa’s selectors have kept faith in the squad that drew the Newlands’ Test and named an unchanged 16 for the remaining two matches against England. They also largely stuck with the same ODI squad that beat India 3-2 last November, with left-arm spinner Aaron Phangiso left out and batsman Rilee Rossouw brought back in. AB de Villiers will lead both sides after taking over from Hashim Amla as Test captain.
That meant no space for specialist opening batsman Stephen Cook in the Test squad, which suggests out of form Stiaan van Zyl will have another opportunity to take ownership of the role. Vernon Philander, who has been sidelined with torn ankle ligaments, also does not appear to be in line for an international comeback until at least the end of February, and offspinner Simon Harmer also misses out.
“We were highly encouraged by the performance put up at Newlands. The very fact that they were nearly able to force a win after conceding 600 runs on the first innings speaks volumes for the character of this group of players,” said Linda Zondi, South Africa’s selection panel convener. “We feel we’ve all our bases covered and also the options that’ll enable the team to exploit whatever conditions they encounter at the Wanderers Stadium and at SuperSport Park.”
Both venues promise fast, bouncy surfaces with good carry so South Africa’s hopes will be pinned on Dale Steyn being fit after he missed four of the last six Tests with injury. At the conclusion of the Newlands match, Steyn was said to be 50-50 and team management will reassess his status when the squad regroups in Johannesburg on Monday. If he is fit, they will have to leave out either Chris Morris or Kagiso Rabada.
Should Steyn still be struggling, South Africa have options. Kyle Abbott has fully recovered from a hamstring niggle while Hardus Viljoen, who plays his domestic cricket for the Johannesburg-based Lions franchise and knows the Wanderers well, has also been retained in the squad. South Africa have thus also left open the possibility of playing four quicks.
Changes to the batting department appear unlikely as the only reserve batsman in the squad, Rossouw, is not a specialist opener and the only place open would be in the top two. Van Zyl has scored just 52 runs in this last seven innings as an opener but is holding on to his place.
After Faf du Plessis regained form in Cape Town and Temba Bavuma showed what he is capable of in the middle order, JP Duminy will find it difficult to find his way back into the XI. He made a strong case for comeback though, with a double hundred for the Cobras against the Lions in Paarl in the first-class competition. In the same match, discarded wicketkeeper Dane Vilas scored 150 to remind the selectors that Quinton de Kock is not the only option available to them. For now, they don’t seem to think so.
Test squad: AB de Villiers (capt), Kyle Abbott, Hashim Amla, Temba Bavuma, Quinton de Kock, JP Duminy, Faf du Plessis, Dean Elgar, Morne Morkel, Chris Morris, Dane Piedt, Kagiso Rabada, Rilee Rossouw, Dale Steyn, Stiaan van Zyl, Hardus Viljoen
ODI squad: AB de Villiers (capt), Kyle Abbott, Hashim Amla, Farhaan Behardien, Quinton de Kock, JP Duminy, Faf du Plessis, Imran Tahir, David Miller, Morne Morkel, Chris Morris, Kagiso Rabada, Rilee Rossouw, Dale Steyn — Cricinfo.