AB de Villiers and Dale Steyn set to return as South Africa take on Zimbabwe in four-day Test

AB de Villiers and Dale Steyn set to return as South Africa take on Zimbabwe in four-day Test

AB de Villiers and Dale Steyn are set to make their returns to Test cricket when South Africa take on Zimbabwe in a four-day match in Port Elizabeth, live on Sky Sports Cricket from Boxing Day.

De Villiers is in line to make his first appearance in the longer format of the game since January 2016 – the 33-year-old was withdrawn from the South African Invitation XI to play Zimbabwe in Paarl earlier this week due to stiffness in his lower back but has declared himself fit to feature in the first four-day Test.

Fast bowler Steyn is also poised to make his comeback in the day-nighter after more than a year out of the side with a serious shoulder injury and he is set to be joined in the pace attack by the fit-again Vernon Philander, who last appeared for the Proteas at the Oval against England in July.

However, captain Faf du Plessis is a doubt – the 33-year-old has not played since sustaining a back injury against Bangladesh in October and a virus has slowed his recovery: “Last week I would have said my chances were 80-20, right now it is about 60-40.”

Zimbabwe’suffered a five-wicket defeat on the third and final day of their day-night match against a South African Invitation team that included only four players with franchise experience.

And now they will have to cope with new four-day playing conditions and the South Africa bowlers with a pink ball under lights, something De Villers found tough in practice.

“It was one of the wickets next to the main wicket we are going to play on – I hope it’s not that spicy – because it was moving around,” he said.

“Vernon [Philander] is obviously the master of moving the ball around, KG [Kagiso Rabada] moving it around and shaping it in, all of that stuff. It was a great way to prepare. I don’t think it can get much harder than that.”

Here’s how the four-day Test will work…

– There will be a minimum 98 overs a day – eight more than in the traditional five-day Test.

– The hours of play will last six-and-a-half hours compared to the normal six hours.

– The lead needed to be able to enforce the follow-on will be 150 rather than 200.

Under the rules, the home board, Cricket South Africa, decides the hours of play and duration of sessions. Each session must be between two and two-and-a-half hours long.

The Boxing Day Test between South Africa and Zimbabwe is a day-night Test, the first in South Africa, and play will run from 1.30pm to 9pm local time. The first break will be tea (20-minute break) and the second dinner (40-minute interval).

There will be an extra 30 minutes available to complete the minimum quota of overs expected in a day’s play.

Beyond the half hour of overtime, any remaining overs cannot be carried over to the following day unless there has been a stoppage for any reason other than normal intervals – for example, rain breaks.

The last hour of play on the final day will officially commence only when 83 overs – as opposed to 75 in five-day Tests – have been bowled on that day. If 83 overs are bowled ahead of schedule, then calculations for the last hour will be dictated by the clock.

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