South African seamer Vernon Philander has been sidelined from the first Test against Pakistan from 26 December.
Philander recently returned from an ankle injury and played for the Durban Heat in the Mzansi Super League earlier this month, but has since hurt his right thumb.
His absence further depletes a Proteas bowling attack, minus the services of pace ace Lungi Ngidi, who has been sidelined until February 2019 with a knee injury.
‘I really don’t even want to think about what would happen should there be another injury,’ said Proteas coach Ottis Gibson.
‘If you look at where we are, Dale Steyn, Kagiso Rabada and Duanne Olivier become very important to us. We just want to manage them as best we can. We’ve seen how Dale’s been going. I don’t want to say we’ve seen a transformation, because he’s always been a top player, but he’s back to full fitness and performing like the player of old. Rabada, as always, is very important to us.
‘We’ve looked at a few bowling options over the past 14 months and we’ve got what we feel now is a very good bowling attack and group. You’ve got Steyn, Rabada, Philander, Ngidi and Olivier, who’s been in-and-out, but always in our thinking. That’s the making of a good attack in any form of the game. My job now is to keep them fit and fresh for them to be at their peak at international level.’
SuperSport Park in Centurion will host the first of the three-match series. Tests two and three will follow at Newlands in Cape Town and the Wanderers in Johannesburg respectively.