Cape Town – It should be known on Wednesday whether national captain Faf du Plessis will be able to take his place in the Proteas team for the once-off, floodlit Test against Zimbabwe in Port Elizabeth from Boxing Day.
The game doubles as an experimental, ICC-approved four-day contest; that, and the historic day/night aspect on these shores, ought to help to stimulate unusual levels of interest against the neighbouring minnows.
But Du Plessis has been out of action since late October, when he retired hurt with a lower back injury a few runs short of a century in the East London one-day international against Bangladesh.
Sport24 understands that Cricket South Africa are planning a press conference on Wednesday, expected to feature head coach Ottis Gibson and manager Dr Mohammed Moosajee, where the availability – or otherwise -- of Du Plessis against Zimbabwe should be revealed.
The odds still seem loaded against Du Plessis making the cut, given that he has not been included in the SA Invitation XI to play a three-day warm-up match against the Zimbabweans at Paarl from Wednesday – several other Proteas in need of extended-format “middle” time like AB de Villiers, Dale Steyn, Temba Bavuma and Chris Morris are in that side.
With no cricket for him at all during the just-completed domestic Ram Slam T20 Challenge campaign, Du Plessis will thus be going in notably “cold” against Zimbabwe if he is deemed ready.
But the visitors’ reasonably benign attack would also provide him with a vital opportunity to get into some kind of nick for the first Test a few days later against fellow-heavyweights India (Newlands, January 5).
If he doesn’t make the Zimbabwe date, the skipper could be struggling too to play in Cape Town.
CSA may well be giving Du Plessis every opportunity to confirm his fitness for the St George’s Park clash, as it is also understood that the SA squad for that Test will only be announced as late as Friday.
That is also the final day of the Paarl warm-up match, so the selectors ought to know much more by then about whether someone like Steyn, who has not played any long-form cricket since early November last year – when he broke down with his serious shoulder injury in a Test against Australia at Perth – is able to be included in the plans for the Friendly City.
Should Du Plessis have to sit out in PE, vice-captain Dean Elgar is the logical replacement as leader.
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