DURBAN: Batsman AB de Villiers will return to the role of wicketkeeper for South Africa in the opening two tests of their four-match home series against England starting in Durban on Boxing Day.
Cricket South Africa confirmed the move on Thursday as they named a 13-man squad for the first two tests that also included a call-up for uncapped left-handed batsman Rilee Rossouw.
The versatile De Villiers did keep wickets during last season’s home series against the West Indies when Quinton de Kock was injured but before that had not donned the gloves in a test since the 2013-14 home series against Australia.
Both de Kock and Dane Vilas, who kept wickets in the recent 3-0 series loss in India, have been dropped for poor batting form but will play for South Africa A against England in a two-day fixture starting next weekend.
Vilas will captain the side and keep wickets while de Kock will bat at number four.
De Villiers’s return to an all-rounder role will enable Temba Bavuma to move back to his normal batting position in the middle-order while Dean Elgar and Stiaan van Zyl will resume their opening batting partnership at the top of the order.
Rossouw has been included in the squad as an extra batsman while Dane Piedt is the only spinner selected with both Simon Harmer and Imran Tahir dropping out from the squad that went to India.
With Vernon Philander on the injury list, Kyle Abbott retains his place in the four-man fast bowling attack along with Morne Morkel, Kagiso Rabada and Dale Steyn, who faces a fitness test next week on his troublesome groin injury.
“One of the issues that concerned us during the tour to India was the lack of depth to our batting, particularly in the lower order and the change in AB’s role means that we can now have a specialist batsman at number seven,” CSA selection convener Linda Zondi said in a statement.
“We now feel that the side has a much better balance about it without in any way reducing the tactical options available to our captain, Hashim Amla.”
The second test will be played in Cape Town from Jan. 2, with further matches in Johannesburg (Jan. 14-18) and Pretoria (Jan. 22-26).
Squad: Hashim Amla (captain), Kyle Abbott, Temba Bavuma, AB de Villiers, JP Duminy, Faf du Plessis, Dean Elgar, Morne Morkel, Dane Piedt, Kagiso Rabada, Rilee Rossouw, Dale Steyn, Stiaan van Zyl