Cape Town: A fit-again Faf du Plessis will return to lead a full-strength South Africa squad, also comprising lead pacer Dale Steyn, for the first Test against India beginning here on January 5.
Du Plessis and Steyn could not be part of the four-day Test against Zimbabwe due to illness. Ab de Villiers, who played his first Test in almost two years, had led South Africa to a comfortable win against Zimbabwe in Du Plessis' absence.
Fast bowling all-rounder Chris Morris too has been added to the 15-man squad, joining the likes of Steyn, Morne Morkel, Kagiso Rabada, Vernon Philander and Andile Phehlukwayo in a formidable pace attack. Morris, who has not played for South Africa since suffering a back injury during the tour of England in July, has replaced fast bowler Duanne Olivier in the only change in the 15-man squad that was picked for the Zimbabwe Test.
There is stiff competition in the pace department and it remains to be seen who will be picked in the eleven alongside probable starters Rabada and Philander. Steyn, who is returning to action after a shoulder surgery that kept him out of the team for more than a year, has a good chance to play.
Morkel has increased the selectors' headache by taking a five-wicket haul against in his comeback game against Zimbabwe. Quinton de Kock, who pulled a hamstring while batting on day one of the one-off Test, has been named as the sole wicketkeeper in the squad. De Villiers had kept wickets in his absence.
The lone specialist spinner in the squad is left-armer Keshav Maharaj, who took a fifer in the second innings against Zimbabwe. Theunis de Bruyn, picked as a reserve batsman against Zimbabwe, retained his spot for the series-opener. De Villiers' welcome return to the five-day format has bolstered the batting. He had a decent outing against Zimbabwe, scoring a 65-ball 53.
India, who have never won a Test series in South Africa, arrived here last night after a long flight from Mumbai. The remaining two games of the three-match Test series will be played in Centurion(Jan 13-17) and Johannesburg (Jan 24-28).
Squad: Faf du Plessis (captain), Hashim Amla, Temba Bavuma, Quinton de Kock, Theunis de Bruyn, AB de Villiers, Dean Elgar, Keshav Maharaj, Aiden Markram, Morne Morkel, Chris Morris, Andile Phehlukwayo, Vernon Philander, Kagiso Rabada, Dale Steyn....