Returning pair will boost South African prospects in first-ever pink-ball, four-day Test against Zimbabwe.
The return of AB de Villiers and Dale Steyn poses a happy problem of plenty for South Africa ahead of its one-off day-night, four-day Test against Zimbabwe, starting at St George's Park in Port Elizabeth on Tuesday (December 26).
Having last played a Test in November 2016, Steyn showed no signs of rustiness while sending down 12 overs for a South African Invitation XI during the three-day warm-up match against the Zimbabweans last week. With all South Africa's frontline fast bowlers fit for the first time in over a year, the team management will have a tough time picking the XI.
De Villiers too returns after a lengthy break, having last played Test cricket against England in January 2016. Since then, he’s battled injury, taken a break from the long form of the game and handed over the captaincy to Faf du Plessis.
Assuming du Plessis is declared fit after recovering from a shoulder surgery, it will be interesting to see how South Africa fits in Temba Bavuma, the right-hand batsman who hit a timely 70 in the warm-up game to boost his chances.
More importantly, this game will help South Africa, second in the ICC Test rankings (LINK), establish its best XI prior to the three-match Test series against India, starting on January 5.
Zimbabwe's preparations for this one-off Test didn't go too well after it suffered a five-wicket defeat against the Invitation XI. But the match helped the Graeme Cremer-led side gain some experience with a pink ball under floodlights.
It is the first day-night Test to be played in South Africa. Interestingly, this four-day match will be staged under experimental playing conditions after the ICC gave it Test status in October as a trial.
Play will be scheduled for six-and-a-half hours each day, half an hour more than in five-day games, with 98 overs due to be bowled in a day, instead of the usual 90. The first two sessions of play will be two hours 15 minutes each, instead of two hours, with a 20-minute tea break instead of a lunch break after the first session. There will be a 40-minute dinner break after the second session.
The floodlights at St George's Park were upgraded during the off-season. Only two Twenty20 matches have been played at the ground since then, with the team batting second winning on both occasions.
South Africa: Faf du Plessis (capt), Dean Elgar, Aiden Markram, Hashim Amla, AB de Villiers, Temba Bavuma, Quinton de Kock (wk), Theunis de Bruyn, Andile Phehlukwayo, Vernon Philander, Keshav Maharaj, Kagiso Rabada, Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel, Duanne Olivier.
Zimbabwe: Graeme Cremer (capt), Hamilton Masakadza, Solomon Mire, Craig Ervine, Brendan Taylor, Sikandar Raza, Chamu Chibhabha, Ryan Burl, Peter Moor, Regis Chakabva (wk), Kyle Jarvis, Chris Mpofu, Tendai Chatara, Blessing Muzarabani, Tendai Chisoro.
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