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South Africa vs Zimbabwe: Test Preview

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Proteas batsman, AB de Villiers, says he is geared up for the unique challenges the pink ball will pose in the historic four-day day-night Test match against Zimbabwe starting in Port Elizabeth on Tuesday, December 26th. The Proteas held their first session under lights with the pink ball on Friday evening, with the St George’s Park conditions providing plenty of nip and spice for the bowlers.

The 33-year-old says he is ‘excited’ to make a return to the Test fold after nearly two years, and hopes to make a meaningful contribution on and off the field as one of the senior players in the squad. He has recovered from the stiff lower back that kept him out of the three-day warm-up match against Zimbabwe earlier this week, and is fit and eager to take on the uncharted pink ball challenge.

“I pride myself in the fact that I can adapt to certain conditions and formats,” he explained to the media on Saturday. “ I have worked hard on my game over the last six months. I started in July facing red balls at the University of Pretoria, getting some technical stuff sorted out, I feel more ready than ever to take it on. I faced a few pink balls here last night on a spicy wicket, it was really tough. Then again it’s a great challenge, it’s the ultimate form of the game, it’s the greatest challenge to come out on top when the ball is moving around a bit.

“ It has always been my theory that there isn’t a massive difference between the formats,” he said. “It’s a mindset, a little tweak here and there. You have to have more patience with the red ball but you still have to play cricket strokes, it’s not like you are playing rugby, it is still cricket. As long as you respect the conditions, sum up what is going on in a match situation, you can make it work.”

De Villiers returns to the venue where he made his Test debut nearly 13 years ago, and insists he is hungrier than ever to make contributions in the format. The match signals the start of an important summer at home for the Test squad, with upcoming tours against India and Australia providing the platform for a thorough assessment of the squad.

“ I want to contribute,” he said of his motivation. “ I want to play knocks, have my say in the field with my experience and take some catches that can win games of cricket. We would like to be No.1 in the world, we are not far away. We know if we win a few series in the next three months against tough opposition we can achieve that. We will take it one step at a time, that will be nice to achieve, to be the No.1 team in the world and to maintain it for a few years.”

Fast bowler, Duanne Olivier, has been added to the squad following the injury to Chris Morris. Morris was initially included in the 15-man squad but was withdrawn due to a groin injury sustained during the RamSlam T20 Challenge Final.

Proteas Test squad: Faf du Plessis (Multiply Titans, capt), Hashim Amla (WSB Cape Cobras), Temba Bavuma (WSB Cape Cobras), Quinton de Kock (Multiply Titans), Theunis de Bruyn (VKB Knights), AB de Villiers (Multiply Titans), Dean Elgar (Multiply Titans), Keshav Maharaj (Hollywoodbets Dolphins), Aiden Markram (Multiply Titans), Morne Morkel (Multiply Titans), Duanne Olivier (VKB Knights), Andile Phehlukwayo (Hollywoodbets Dolphins), Vernon Philander (WSB Cape Cobras), Kagiso Rabada (bizhub Highveld Lions), Dale Steyn (Multiply Titans).