Johannesburg: Much-injured fast bowler Dale Steyn was on Monday named in a 15-man South African squad for two Test matches in Sri Lanka next month.
Steyn, who turns 35 on June 27, has missed 27 of South Africa’s most recent 32 Test matches. He has been plagued by groin, shoulder and heel problems and was unable to complete the most recent Tests he started, against Australia in November 2016 and India in January this year.
The South African squad includes three spin bowlers, including uncapped leg-spinner Shaun von Berg, while Steyn is one of four fast bowlers.
Steyn is spending a short-term stint with English county Hampshire. In his first match since suffering a heel injury in the first Test against India in January, he took one for 80 in a one-day match against Somerset last week and he claimed two for 91 in the first innings of a current first-class fixture against Sussex.
Although South African coach Ottis Gibson has said a fully-fit Steyn would be included in the country’s team, Steyn will be competing with world number one bowler Kagiso Rabada, experienced seamer Vernon Philander and exciting youngster Lungi Ngidi for a starting place in a country where it is unlikely that more than three fast bowlers will be picked.
Selection convener Linda Zondi welcomed Steyn's return "in our pack of world-class seamers, particularly in view of the retirement of Morne Morkel."
Zondi said Rabada had fully recovered from a "lower back stress reaction" – a possible prelude to a stress fracture – that kept him out of the Indian Premier League recently.
Steyn has 419 Test wickets – two short of Shaun Pollock’s South African record of 421. South Africa picked a varied trio of spinners. Left-arm orthodox spinner Keshav Maharaj will be backed up by left-arm wrist spinner Tabraiz Shamsi and leg-spinner Von Berg, who is also a capable batsman.
The Tests will be followed by five one-day internationals and a Twenty20 international. Squads for these matches will be announced later.
South African squad: Faf du Plessis (captain), Hashim Amla, Temba Bavuma, Quinton de Kock (wkt), Theunis de Bruyn, Dean Elgar, Heinrich Klaasen (wkt), Keshav Maharaj, Aiden Markram, Lungi Ngidi, Vernon Philander, Kagiso Rabada, Tabraiz Shamsi, Dale Steyn, Shaun von Berg.
Fixtures: July 7-8, Warm-up match, Colombo
July 12-16, First Test, Galle
July 20-24, Second Test, Colombo