De Villiers, de Kock in line for Australia series; Steyn, du Plessis doubtful


AB de Villiers and Quinton de Kock are expected to be fit for the start of South Africa’s Test series against Australia from March 1, but doubts remain on whether captain Faf du Plessis and middle-order batsman Temba Bavuma will be ready.
While de Villiers and de Kock are recovering from knee and wrist injuries respectively, du Plessis and Bavuma are nursing broken fingers. South Africa team manager Mohammed Moosajee told ESPNcricinfo that a call on their availability will only be taken as the series draws closer. Dale Steyn, who is recovering from a heel injury, is not likely to be up for selection until at least the third Test in Cape Town on March 22.”We’ve obviously had a lot of senior guys out injured and it’s had an effect,” Moosajee said. “But we are sure AB and Quinton will be ready for the first Test and we are hopeful Faf will be. When he was diagnosed [on February 2] we knew he would require four to six weeks recovery time, which takes us, at the earliest, to the first week in March. So we have to take it on a week-by-week basis and see how he is progressing. The same with Temba, though he might be out for a week more than Faf.”Du Plessis’ availability is crucial not only because he is the captain but because South Africa desperately need bulk in their batting. The evidence of the limited-overs series against India aside, their new strategy of playing six specialist batsmen with the out-of-form de Kock at No. 6 means that du Plessis’ runs will be as important as his leadership.
He also has a strong record and a fiery history against Australia, with an average of 59.14, a defiant century on debut in Adelaide, and a starring role in the series win in 2016, partly coloured with controversy. Du Plessis was infamously involved in the “mintgate” saga in which he was fined for ball tampering after shining the ball with saliva that had come into contact with a mint in his mouth. He will doubtless be itching to meet Australia again.