HARARE – Zimbabwe will get a taste of floodlit cricket with a pink ball when they play a day/night match against a South African Invitation XI over three days at Boland Park, starting today.
This will be the only warm-up Heath Streak’s men get before the historic four-day Test against the Proteas starting on Boxing Day in Potchefstroom.
South Africa will be using the Paarl match to prepare two key long-time absentees, batsman AB de Villiers and fast bowler Dale Steyn, for a probable return to Test cricket.
De Villiers has not played in a Test since captaining South Africa against England in January 2016.
He missed three series matches because of an elbow injury and then took a break from the five-day format, ceding the captaincy to Faf du Plessis.
Steyn suffered a broken shoulder in a Test in Australia in November 2016 and his only competitive cricket since then has been in five Twenty20 matches for the Titans franchise in the past month.
A third player, Vernon Philander, is also back in the Proteas squad after missing the most recent series against Bangladesh following an injury picked up during the winter tour to England.
“It is a very exciting moment not just for South Africa but for world cricket to have Dale and AB, two icons of the game, back in the multi-day format,” Cricket South Africa convener of selectors Linda Zondi. Said.
“After Zimbabwe we have two very tough home Test series coming up against India, the number one ranked side in the world, and Australia, who have just regained the Ashes in their current series against England.
“AB and Dale bring loads of experience to the side apart from being two of the South African all-time greats.
“It is also good to have Vernon back and it is very encouraging that our four premium fast bowlers — Steyn, Philander, Kagiso Rabada and Morne Morkel — are all back in the selection mix.”
Despite being neighbours, South Africa and Zimbabwe have only played eight Test matches against each other since they first met in 1995/96, while it is Zimbabwe’s first Test tour of South Africa since 2004/05. South Africa have won seven matches, with one drawn.
Zimbabwe captain Graeme Cremer, batsmen Hamilton Masakadza and Brendan Taylor and fast bowler Chris Mpofu were all on the 2004/05 tour, when South Africa won both Test matches, while De Villiers is the only South African still active who played in the series.