Boje returns to SA team for England series

Published: Wednesday, December 8, 2004, 1:53 [IST]
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Johannesburg:Two uncapped players were named in the South African squad for the first Test against England in Port Elizabeth starting December 17, but there was still no place for deposed wicketkeeper Mark Boucher.

Opening batsman Abraham (AB) de Villiers and fast bowler Dale Steyn, both from the Centurion-based Titans franchise, are the newcomers in a 13-man squad.

De Villiers, 20, looks likely to play as a specialist opening batsman to partner captain Graeme Smith. Former regular Herschelle Gibbs was not considered because of a finger injury.

Steyn, 21, made a sensational entry into top-level domestic cricket this season and is regarded as the fastest bowler currently in South Africa. His selection for the starting line-up could depend on pitch conditions at St George's Park in Port Elizabeth.

Left-arm spinner Nicky Boje was included in the squad but will have to pass a fitness test after undergoing surgery recently to remove a growth in his neck. He is the only spinner in the squad and no other spinner was named on standby in case he does not play.

Boje was named as vice-captain. He was earlier appointed vice-captain of the team for the tour of India before withdrawing over concerns about possible arrest or detention by Indian police over his alleged involvement in the Hansie Cronje match-fixing case in 2000.

Gibbs also did not tour India because of concern about possible police action.

Justin Ontong, who bowled a mixture of leg-breaks and off-spin in the second Test against India in Kolkata last week, is the only player dropped from the side that lost by eight wickets.

The non-selection of the experienced Boucher, who played in 75 consecutive Tests - a South African record - before being dropped for the tour of India, came despite outspoken support for him by coach Ray Jennings, himself a former wicketkeeper, in a weekend newspaper interview.

Thami Tsolekile, who replaced Boucher, kept his place in the squad. Tsolekile missed two crucial chances in the first Test against India in Kanpur but had a better match in Kolkata.

Boucher was named for the South Africa A team to play against England in a three-day match starting in Potchefstroom Saturday.

Haroon Lorgat, named as interim convenor of selectors following the demotion of Omar Henry by the United Cricket Board at the weekend, said the panel had largely stood by the players who went to India.

"We have stuck, by and large, to those players who toured India, and displayed grit and courage in very tough circumstances. We need battle-hardened, mentally tough players for this series and I believe we have them."

Lorgat said of De Villiers and Steyn: "They are two of the most exciting young players in the country at the moment."

"AB has been in rich form in the (four-day) SuperSport Series both this season and last and has followed that up with good form in the (one-day) Standard Bank Cup. He will be a strong candidate to open the batting with Graeme Smith. "

"Steyn has that rare commodity, real pace, and although he is relatively inexperienced, he has shown tremendous potential this season and his form has been outstanding," said Lorgat.

Fast bowler Andre Nel, who WAS one of South Africa's stars against the West Indies, last season, was not considered because he is not yet fully match fit after returning recently from injury.

The squad: Graeme Smith (captain), Nicky Boje (vice-captain), Hashim Amla, Zander de Bruyn, AB de Villiers, Boeta Dippenaar, Andrew Hall, Jacques Kallis, Makhaya Ntini, Shaun Pollock, Jacques Rudolph, Dale Steyn, Thami Tsolekile.

South Africa A: HD Ackerman (captain), Justin Ontong (vice-captain), Mark Boucher, JP Duminy, Charl Langeveldt, Ethy Mbhalati, Albie Morkel, Andrew Puttick, Alfonso Thomas, Martin van Jaarsveld, Charl Willoughby.

England start their tour with a one-day match against a Nicky Oppenheimer XI at Randjesfontein, near Johannesburg on Wednesday.

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