Zimbabwe will not have to deal with AB de Villiers in their tour match against a South African Invitation XI in Paarl that starts on Wednesday, but they are likely to have to find a way past Dale Steyn.
De Villiers pulled out of the three-day game on Tuesday with a lower back problem. But Steyn remains in the mix.
Both are in SA’s squad for the four-day, day-night Test against the Zimbabweans at St George’s Park, starting on Tuesday.
"AB de Villiers is struggling with lower back stiffness and has been withdrawn from the three-day warm-up match [against the Zimbabweans in Paarl starting on Wednesday] as a precaution‚" SA team manager Mohammed Moosajee was quoted as saying.
"He is‚ however‚ available for selection for the Test match against Zimbabwe."
The problem is De Villiers has played only one first-class match in almost two years: he scored five and 32 for the Titans against the Warriors in Benoni in October. Good thing‚ then‚ that the Test against Zimbabwe will serve as a warm-up for the upcoming tougher assignments against India and Australia.
Also making a return to the Test squad is Vernon Philander‚ who struggled with injuries on the winter tour to England and was bitten on the hand by his own dogs in November.
Morné Morkel has recovered from the side strain that struck him in October and has retained his place.
Wayne Parnell was the only casualty from the squad named for the series against Bangladesh in September and October.
Chris Morris‚ who is not in the Test squad‚ has been withdrawn from the Paarl match because of a groin strain.
Perhaps because he will not have to face Steyn with the new ball, the prospect of seeing the fast bowler charge in excites Graeme Cremer.
"He brings a lot to cricket in general," Zimbabwe’s captain said in Paarl on Tuesday. "He’s a good guy and he’s one of the better bowlers going around.
"It will be good to have him back, not only just for this Test match but going forward in his career. He is great to watch and we are excited to see him in the three-day game and hopefully in the Test."
Wednesday’s game, which is scheduled to start at 3.30pm, is Zimbabwe’s first with the pink ball that will be used in the Test.
"We’ve had two sessions under lights with the pink ball," Cremer said. "It was good to see how it reacts. This three-day game, we will look to get all our game plans and tactics ready.
"At twilight time a little bit more seems to happen with the ball off the wicket, and we’ll be careful of that. It will probably swing," he said.
Zimbabwe have lost all three of the Tests they have played in SA by an innings and have won only 11 of their 104 Tests all told.
But Cremer did a decent marketing job for next week’s match nonetheless.
"The game will move that much quicker because it’s only four days. It will be good to watch and good for the crowd," he said.
"What a lot of the so-called bigger teams will do is bat the other team right out of the game — they can bat as long as they want, knowing they’ve got the bowlers to bowl a team out twice," Cremer said.
"The bigger teams will have to score quicker and give the lesser teams more opportunity to get wickets, and the game will move quite quickly."
SA Invitation XI: Dominic Hendricks (capt), Temba Bavuma, Tladi Bokako, Michael Cohen, Isaac Dikgale, Leus du Plooy, Dayyaan Galiem, Zubayr Hamza, Kagiso Rapulana, Kelly Smuts, Dale Steyn, Ricardo Vasconcelos, Shaun von Berg, Lizaad Williams
Zimbabwe: Graeme Cremer (capt), Hamilton Masakadza, Craig Ervine, Brendan Taylor, Chamu Chibhabha, Regis Chakabva, Sikandar Raza, Ryan Burl, Tendai Chatara, Blessing Muzarabani, Tendai Chisoro, Peter Moor, Solomon Mire, Kyle Jarvis,
SA Test squad: Faf du Plessis (capt)‚ Hashim Amla‚ Temba Bavuma‚ Quinton de Kock‚ Theunis de Bruyn‚ AB de Villiers‚ Dean Elgar‚ Keshav Maharaj‚ Aiden Markram‚ Morné Morkel‚ Andile Phehlukwayo‚ Vernon Philander‚ Kagiso Rabada‚ Dale Steyn