Sitting on an eight-Test winless streak, South Africa will miss Steyn as it seeks to upset England’s applecart
Handicapped by the absence of Dale Steyn, South Africa will have to dig deep into its reserves if it is looking to beat England in the third Test beginning at the Wanderers on Thursday (January 14).
Steyn was ruled out after failing to recover from a shoulder injury picked up in the first Test in Durban. To add to South Africa’s woes, Vernon Philander is also injured and Morne Morkel, whose workload has been under scrutiny in recent months, is in “the red zone” after bowling more than he should have, according to Russell Domingo, the coach.
The Wanderers has traditionally favoured fast bowlers, and picking the right bowling line-up will be a key factor for South Africa, with Kyle Abbott and the Hardus Viljoen, the uncapped pacer, coming under consideration. There is also the possibility that South Africa might decide to go without Dane Piedt, the offspinner, which could mean a recall for JP Duminy.
England leads the four-Test series 1-0, and South Africa will lose its No. 1 Test ranking unless it can earn a share of the series honours.
The match marks the debut of AB de Villiers as South Africa’s Test captain following Hashim Amla’s sudden resignation after the previous Test at Newlands in Cape Town. De Villiers, ranked third in the ICC Test rankings for batsmen and first in One-Day Internationals, faces a huge challenge, especially with the depleted bowling resources.
De Villiers takes over at a difficult time. Despite fighting back strongly to draw the second Test in Cape Town, South Africa has gone eight Test matches and more than a year without a win. However, Domingo said the change in captaincy hadn’t had too much of an effect on the squad. “Within our team, it’s been business as usual,” said Domingo. “I don’t see too much of a change in the change room because it’s all the same players, they have all played under AB in the one-day side so it’s not too much of an adjustment.”
England, meanwhile, have no selection dilemmas following strong performances in both Tests so far, despite James Anderson, Alastair Cook or Joe Root not making significant contributions. Root has looked good without making a big score while Anderson, who missed the Boxing Day Test due to a calf strain and returned 1 for 77 in Cape Town, will be expected to do better. Cook’s form is slightly more of a worry, as he has made just 42 runs in four innings.
South Africa has won 10 and lost eight of the 24 Tests at the Wanderers since readmission, and Anderson said it would be great if England managed to steal a win.
"It would be massive for us, especially with the journey this team has gone on in a short space of time,” said Anderson. "We've shown glimpses of being a world-class team but we have also been very inconsistent.
“But to get a win out here, somewhere South Africa have dominated for a long period of time, and a reason why they are No. 1 in the world, would be huge for us.”
South Africa: Stiaan van Zyl, Dean Elgar, Hashim Amla, AB de Villiers (capt), Faf du Plessis, JP Duminy, Quinton de Kock (wk), Chris Morris, Dane Piedt, Kagiso Rabada, Morne Morkel, Hardus Viljoen, Rilee Rossouw, Temba Bavuma.
England: Alastair Cook (capt), Alex Hales, Nick Compton, Joe Root, James Taylor, Ben Stokes, Jonny Bairstow (wk), Moeen Ali, Stuart Broad, James Anderson, Steven Finn, Jos Buttler, Mark Footitt, Chris Woakes, Chris Jordan, Samit Patel, Gary Ballance.