Dale Steyn’s much-sought return to the Test arena has apparently been delayed again.
The Proteas quick, who needs just three wickets to overtake Shaun Pollock as South Africa’s most prolific bowler, is targeting the fourth Test against Australia.
He had been due to play a first-class Sunfoil match this week to test his fitness, but according to reports, has pulled out of that. A Northerns match, in which he could have featured, was abandoned without a ball being bowled due to rain and a wet field.
Playing in the Titans vs Cobras match, which is due to start on Thursday, would have left him a recovery time of just three days before the third Test, which starts on 22 March. Now it seems he is aiming for the final Sunfoil match, which starts on 22 March, but that, too, would allow him just a four-day break.
Steyn made a Test comeback against India after a lengthy lay-off with a shoulder injury, but after bowling just 17.3 overs, he hobbled off with a heel injury.
Steyn told Radio KFM a week ago that he was ‘two to three weeks away’ from Test-match fitness.
‘I’m looking at trying to get into the third Test, get back with the boys and everything like that. It’s been a long time – shoulder, foot, all that kind of stuff. Watching the cricket and seeing some of the things that are happening on the field, I just want to get out there.
‘I’m probably another two or three weeks away… I have to play one or two warm-up games. So hopefully everything goes according to plan, and by the end of next week, I should be back on the cricket field.’
His captain Faf du Plessis was not fully aware of Steyn’s situation.
‘I’m not 100% sure where Dale is. From my understanding, he would have needed to play a game this week, which he didn’t, which would probably set him back for the third Test, I would assume,’ Du Plessis said.
‘Our plan for him was to play a game. But I would be praying extra hard that he would be ready for that third Test to make sure we can have him available if he is fit. On the spot now, I would assume probably on the fourth Test.’
The Proteas would like to have him available, especially now that Kagiso Rabada has been banned for the rest of the series.