Vernon Philander is in doubt for the New Year's Test against New Zealand after a flare up of his left hamstring during the first-class match between Cobras and Titans at Newlands.
Philander bowled five overs and took a wicket before leaving the ground to have scans. Initial estimates were a recovery time of 7-10 days, but that has been extended out to up to two weeks following the results of scans.
"MRI scans revealed that Vernon suffered a Grade 1 strain to his left hamstring. Injuries of this type usually have a 10 to 14 day recovery period," said Mohammed Moosajee, the South African team manager who is also a medical doctor.
"We will assess the injury as the week progresses, and this will help determine whether his availability for the Test series will be affected. At this point he will not bowl again during the match and will only bat if necessary."
The first Test starts in 12 days' time, on January 2, so it is a tight time scale for Philander. The second Test follows on January 11, which will give him three weeks to recover. Should Philander miss the first match, Rory Kleinveldt is likely to play, as he did when Philander's back seized-up and forced him to miss the Adelaide Test against Australia.
Philander's troubles are the latest in a long list of niggles that have plagued bowlers in 2012. It came on the same day that Tim Southee was ruled out of the New Zealand squad for the Tests with a thumb injury. Southee's unavailability has left the visiting side without a third marquee player, having already lost Ross Taylor and Daniel Vettori -- the former to miscommunication, the latter to injury.
South Africa's bowling coach Allan Donald had said Southee could go on to become the "best swing bowler in the world," when he worked with New Zealand. Southee himself was looking forward to facing South Africa, having been dropped from the side after one Test against them in March.
"It's a big loss. Tim [Southee] has been our No.1 bowler in Test cricket for the last while," Brendon McCullum said. "He is a real leader of the attack, even at a young age. He had a keen eye on this series to test himself out against some of the best Test bowlers, Morne Morkel and Dale Steyn and the like."
New Zealand's options for a replacement are thin. One of their candidates, Mark Gillespie, who played against South Africa earlier in the year and was due to take part in the Twenty20s, has a side strain and the timeframe on his recovery is unknown. As a result, they may be forced to turn to old hands in an emergency.
Thirty-one year-old Ian Butler leads the Plunket Shield wicket charts with 25 scalps from six matches while 33-year old Brent Arnel is third with 21. Both have played Test cricket before with Arnel last turning out against South Africa in Hamilton.
Should New Zealand choose to go the other way and opt for youth, left-armer Mitchell McClenaghan will be forefront in their plans. He is currently in South Africa with the T20 squad and took three wickets in the warm-up fixture, where he reached speeds in the mid-140s. He has been in bowling coach Shane Bond's thinking.
Bond hinted before news of Southee's injury was out that McClenaghan could force his way into the one-day side with good performances in the shortest format. "I first saw him in 2010 and he was the same then. In the practice match, he bowled the same as at home, which is aggressively, run in and try to bowl fast. There's competition within our squad. We haven't named a one-day team so there are chances on this tour for guys to put their hands up. Mitchell has got himself in really good physical condition and he deserves his opportunity. Hopefully he will take it on this trip."
McClenaghan made a comeback last season after a lengthy injury break. He underwent three surgical procedures on his hips but made an explosive return when he was part of the Auckland side that dismissed Otago for 63 last summer. McClenaghan took 8 for 23 in that match. He has played four matches in this year's Plunket Shield and has claimed 14 wickets at an average of 34.85 to be eighth on the bowling charts.