South Africa suffered a crushing double blow ahead of Saturday’s second Test against India as both pace spearheads Dale Steyn and Vernon Philander were ruled out with injuries.
Philander twisted his left ankle during practice in Bangalore on Thursday and will miss the rest of the four-Test series as MRI scans showed he may be out of action for up to eight weeks.
On Friday, South African skipper Hashim Amla confirmed that Steyn had not recovered from a groin strain he suffered during the first Test in Mohali last week.
“Both Dale (Steyn) and Philander are ruled out of this match,” Amla told reporters at the Chinnaswamy stadium as the tourists prepared to bid for a series-levelling win.
— Injuries “change dynamics” –“Obviously, losing Dale — one of the best bowlers in the world — and Philander – one of the best all-rounders in the world – certainly changes the dynamics of the team.
“But the guys who will replace them are quality cricketers. We are fortunate to have great depth in our side, especially in the bowling. We still have a potent bowling attack to back it up.”
The tourists, the world’s top-ranked Test side, crashed to a 108-run defeat inside three days in the first match in Mohali as they found Indian spinners unplayable on the dry, dusty pitch.
The Proteas flew in seamer Kyle Abbott to replace Philander and fast bowler Morne Morkel will also be available after missing the Mohali Test due to a leg injury.
But the absence of Steyn and Philander will hurt the tourists since bad weather in Bangalore over the last few days is certain to spice up the pitch.
Amla insisted that Abbott, who has taken 13 wickets in three Tests so far, will be ready to play despite landing in Bangalore on Thursday night.
“Yes, he is ready,” the skipper said. “Kyle has been one of our outstanding reserve bowlers in the last couple of years. Whenever he has got an opportunity in all formats he has done exceptionally well.”
Both Amla and his Indian counterpart Virat Kohli said the damp weather and forecast of further rain over the next five days will make both teams re-think their plans.
“Let’s see what the weather tomorrow is like,” said Amla. “These type of conditions suit seam bowling. Hope our bowlers will do a good job for us.”
Kohli said the different conditions from Mohali where the Indian spinners claimed 19 of the 20 wickets, are bound to affect the home side’s strategy.
— Changes for India too –“It (the weather) does play a part especially knowing that you might not have full game time,” the Indian captain said. “It does sort of bring about a few changes as far as the team combination is concerned.
“We will make the necessary changes according to the conditions. It is very important to keep all the factors in mind before picking a squad for a Test.”
India will welcome back premier fast bowler Ishant Sharma, who missed the Mohali match to serve out a one-Test ban for misconduct during the recent Sri Lankan tour.
Sharma is likely to replace either Umesh Yadav or Varun Aaron — unless India prefer to play three seamers — but Kohli said a final call on the playing XI will be taken just before the toss.
India (from): Virat Kohli (capt), Murali Vijay, Shikhar Dhawan, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane, Rohit Sharma, Wriddhiman Saha, Ravindra Jadeja, Amit Mishra, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Ravichandran Ashwin, Ishant Sharma, Umesh Yadav, Lokesh Rahul, Stuart Binny, Varun Aaron, Gurkeerat Mann.
South Africa (from): Hashim Amla (capt), AB de Villiers, Temba Bavuma, JP Duminy, Faf du Plessis, Dean Elgar, Simon Harmer, Imran Tahir, Morne Morkel, Kyle Abbott, Dane Piedt, Kagiso Rabada, Stiaan van Zyl, Dane Vilas.