The Proteas are considering returning to the old days and fielding an all-pace attack in perhaps two of the three Tests in Australia.
The squad set off on Sunday with a surfeit of options in pace, taking Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel, Vernon Philander, Kagiso Rabada and Kyle Abbott, who could be supplemented by JP Duminy’s off-spin if required.
The conditions they find will determine whether the two rookie leg-spinners, Tabraiz Shamsi and Keshav Maharaj get a look-in.
At the squad’s leaving press conference, coach Russell Domingo said: ‘The big decision will be whether to play four seamers or three seamers and a spinner.
‘We will have to assess how guys go in the warm-up games, what type of spinner we are looking for in those conditions, if we do play a spinner, and what the best four seamers will be in those conditions.’
All the seamers are in-form now that Morne Morkel came through his fitness test with Titans against the Warriors in a Sunfoil match last week. He sat out the New Zealand series with a back injury.
The Waca, venue for the first Test on 3 November, is one ground which may be helpful to an all-pace attack, and Domingo believes the third Test in Adelaide, which will be a day-night match with a pink ball, is also good for quick bowlers.
‘A lot of our players played with the pink ball on the South Africa A tour, and they have given us feedback. I think they’ve got to leave some grass on the wicket because the pink ball has got a history of scuffing up, so they try and prolong the quality of the pink ball while leaving some grass on the wicket.
‘We’ve also heard that it is very tough to bat under lights and the ball does nip around.’
‘Most of the players are really excited by it, especially the bowlers. The bowlers are licking their lips. The batters might not be that excited, but the bowlers are looking forward to it.’
South Africa’s first practice game will take place under lights in Adelaide and they have a second in Melbourne ahead of the third Test. As an added bonus, they also have another two-day game ahead of the first Test.
But Domingo confirmed that the spinners will not be ignored, particularly the leg-spinners. They have already noted that Australia struggled to pick Shamsi in the ODIs and may want his surprise factor. However, Maharaj is hot off a 13-wicket haul in the opening domestic first-class match of the season.
‘Australia, generally, hasn’t been a happy hunting ground for off-spinners,’ said the coach. ‘The Australian line-up does have a lot of right-handers – Steven Smith, Joe Burns, Adam Voges, Peter Neville, so quite a lot.’
But Duminy does offer an option to turn the ball away from left-handers, as well as being a back-up to the pacemen.