South Africa seamer Vernon Philander is set to miss the first Test against Pakistan on Boxing Day after sustaining a hairline fracture on his right thumb. With Lungi Ngidi out of action until February with a knee injury, South Africa will go into the first of three Test matches with just three fit frontline quicks in Duanne Olivier, Kagiso Rabada and Dale Steyn.
Philander had recently returned to action following rehabilitation for a recurring ankle injury, that had flared up during South Africa's trip to Sri Lanka in July, and had played in one of the early season rounds of the domestic four-day competition, as well as turning out for Durban Heat in seven of their Mzansi Super League matches.
"I really don't even want to think about what would happen should there be another injury," said South Africa coach Ottis Gibson.
All three of the remaining fit quicks will be playing in Sunday's Mzansi Super League final, but they will not be part of next week's round of domestic four-day cricket.
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"If you look at where we are, Steyn, Rabada and Olivier become very important to us. We just want to manage them as best we can. We've seen how Dale's been going. I don't want to say we've seen a transformation because he's always been a top player, but he's back to full fitness and performing like the player of old. KG (Rabada) as always is very important to us."
"We've looked at a few bowling options over the past 14 months and we've got what we feel now is a very good bowling attack and group," Gibson said. "You've got Steyn, Rabada, Philander, Ngidi and Olivier, who's been in-and-out, but always in our thinking. That's the making of a good attack in any form of the game. My job now is to keep them fit and fresh for them to be at their peak at international level."