Port Elizabeth - Selection
is likely to be South Africa’s biggest challenge ahead of their one-off
day-night Test against Zimbabwe, starting at St George's Park on
Zimbabwe are unlikely to stretch the home side but South Africa,
ranked second in Test cricket, will want to establish their best XI in
this four-day Test ahead of a three-match series against India, starting
in Cape Town on January 5.
With the return of AB de Villiers and Dale Steyn after long absences
from Test cricket, and with all South Africa's front-line fast bowlers
fit for the first time in more than a year, coach Ottis Gibson described
the selection issue as "a good nightmare".
"India are the number one team in the world at the moment and we know
we need to be at our best if we are going to compete with them and beat
them, which is our ultimate goal," said Gibson.
Six or seven batsmen? Three or four fast bowlers? A spin bowler? An
all-rounder? These are all questions that will be troubling Gibson and
his fellow selectors.
The situation is complicated by South Africa’s unique racial
balancing act, with Cricket South Africa committed to having an average
of six players of colour, including two black Africans, in their
Three black Africans - batsman Temba Bavuma, all-rounder Andile
Phehlukwayo and fast bowler Kagiso Rabada - played in South Africa’s
most recent Test matches, two one-sided encounters against Bangladesh.
But with batsman De Villiers and fast bowlers Steyn, Vernon Philander
and Morne Morkel back in the mix, only Rabada of the three seems
guaranteed to start in what should be another lop-sided contest.
Assuming captain Faf du Plessis is passed fit after recovering from
shoulder surgery, it will be difficult to fit Bavuma into the batting
line-up, while Phehlukwayo’s medium-pace is unlikely to be required when
there are four world-class fast bowlers in the squad.
Zimbabwe had a disappointing warm-up when they were beaten by a
largely unheralded Invitation team in Paarl, but they were able to gain
some experience with a pink ball under floodlights.
It is the first day-night Test to be played in South Africa. When the
hosts held their first practice under lights on Friday they found the
ball helped the seam bowlers more at night than during the day, which
has been a pattern in floodlit Tests elsewhere.
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.
Faf du Plessis (captain), Dean Elgar, Aiden Markram,
Hashim Amla, AB de Villiers, Temba Bavuma, Quinton de Kock (wkt),
Theunis de Bruyn, Andile Phehlukwayo, Vernon Philander, Keshav Maharaj,
Kagiso Rabada, Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel, Duanne Olivier
Graeme Cremer (captain), Hamilton Masakadza, Solomon
Mire, Craig Ervine, Brendan Taylor, Sikandar Raza, Chamu Chibhabha, Ryan
Burl, Peter Moor, Regis Chakabva (wkt), Kyle Jarvis, Chris Mpofu,
Tendai Chatara, Blessing Muzarabani, Tendai Chisoro.
Umpires: Richard Kettleborough (ENG), Paul Reiffel (AUS)
TV umpire: Michael Gough (ENG)
Match referee: Chris Broad (ENG)