SA coach can take pick from top players
Ottis Gibson is relishing an opportunity to pick his aces from a full deck ahead of the historic day-night pink ball cricket test against Zimbabwe at St George’s Park starting on Tuesday.
A Proteas team at full strength has been a rare commodity in recent years, but heading into this summer coach Gibson has the luxury of being able to choose from the best the country has to offer.
Coming back into the mix for the Zimbabwe four-day test are the formidable trio of Dale Steyn, Vernon Philander and AB de Villiers.
Also making a comeback from injury will be Morne Morkel.
Gibson, in his second assignment after seeing off Bangladesh with ease in September-October, acknowledged yesterday that selection would be a nightmare . . . but not the kind you wake up sweating from.
“This one is a good nightmare because you’re bringing back such quality players and it’s going to be an interesting selection,” he said.
“If we get it right and you look at the strength of the team you can put out on the park, then that’s the pleasing thing. It’s good to have all those guys back.
AB’s not played [tests] for a couple of years, Vernon’s been injured and Morkel’s been injured as well.
Again, getting the right blend of a team is going to be a challenge but it’s a great challenge and I guess it’s one we are all looking forward to.”
The prospect of an attack with Kagiso Rabada, Steyn, Morkel and Philander steaming in at full tilt will have South Africa cricket fans salivating.
But Gibson was not giving much away, saying management would assess Steyn once he arrived in Port Elizabeth from Paarl, where he came through a dozen overs with success against Zimbabwe for an SA Invitation side this week.
But one could tell by the way the former West Indian fast bowler spoke about the Phalaborwa Express he is itching to let Steyn loose against Zimbabwe.
“From a world perspective, he’s been a champion bowler for a long time.
Probably, along with Jimmy Anderson, the best of the modern generation in terms of wickets taken and games played.
The way he’s led South Africa’s attack for a number of years has been great.
“When you’ve had such a long lay-off and an injury you just have to wait and see how he pulls up here. Hopefully, he pulls up well.”
One can understand why Gibson is wary of rushing Steyn into the side without assessing for himself exactly where he is fitness- wise.
After Zimbabwe, there are far greater tests awaiting against India and Australia and he would love Steyn to play amajor role in those rubbers.
The 34-year-old Steyn needs just five wickets to overtake Shaun Pollock’s South African record of 421 test wickets, but he has not played a test for more than a year.
South African supporters will be hoping he passes that mark in Port Elizabeth, the city where he made his test debut 13 years ago.
The Proteas test squad for St George’s Park is: Faf du Plessis (Titans, capt), Hashim Amla (Cobras), Temba Bavuma (Cobras), Quinton de Kock (Titans), Theunis de Bruyn (Knights), AB de Villiers (Titans), Dean Elgar (Titans), Keshav Maharaj (Dolphins), Aiden Markram (Titans), Morne Morkel (Titans), Andile Phehlukwayo (Dolphins), Vernon Philander (Cobras), Kagiso Rabada (Lions), Dale Steyn (Titans).