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De Villiers ready for SA return

Superstar batsman recalled to Proteas ODI squad in a pleasing change of fortune for the injury-ridden hosts

AB de Villiers has returned to the South African squad for the last three one-day internationals against India, Cricket South Africa announced on Thursday.

The star batsman missed the first three matches because of a finger injury suffered in the third Test against the same opponents last month.

There was no immediate word on whether De Villiers had recovered sufficiently to play in the fourth match at the Wanderers Stadium on Saturday. He will be assessed when the squad reassembles in Johannesburg on Friday.

South Africa will be desperate for De Villiers to play after India dominated the first three matches.

In what could amount to an admission that South Africa are short of strength in depth, the return of De Villiers is the only change to a squad weakened by injuries to regular captain Faf du Plessis and wicketkeeper-batsman Quinton de Kock.

South Africa’s batsmen have struggled, particularly against India’s spinners. Du Plessis hit a century in the first game before being injured but JP Duminy, with 51 in the third game in Cape Town, is the only other South African to have made a half-century.

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Farhaan Behardien, who was added to the squad after Du Plessis was injured, is the only batsman in the group, other than De Villiers, who has not yet played in the series.

De Villiers' return is also a promising sign for the Proteas ahead of their four-Test series against Australia beginning in Durban on March 1.

Both de Kock and du Plessis both also hope to be fit to take on Steve Smith's team.

De Kock was ruled out of the remainder of the ODI series against India with a left wrist injury and will need up to a month to recover, leaving him in a race against time to be fit for the first Test against Australia.

The injury to du Plessis is more severe, but he too is hopeful of being fit in time to face Australia in Durban on March 1 for the first match in a four Test tour.

Du Plessis fractured his right index finger in the field in the first ODI while diving at full stretch attempting to catch an edge off Virat Kohli's bat, with the Proteas confirming in a statement the injury would need 3-6 weeks to heal.

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Also in the injury ward for South Africa is star bowler Dale Steyn, who suffered a heel injury partway through the first Test against India in early January.

His return to action is yet to be determined, but the veteran quick says he has eyes on the clash with the Aussies.

"Yeah, that (playing in the Australia series) is the plan," Steyn said on January 8, when it was announced the speedster's recovery period "could be anything from four to six weeks".

South African squad: Aiden Markram (captain), Hashim Amla, Farhaan Behardien, AB de Villiers, JP Duminy, Imran Tahir, Heinrich Klaasen (wkt), David Miller, Morne Morkel, Chris Morris, Lungi Ngidi, Andile Phehlukwayo, Kagiso Rabada, Tabraiz Shamsi, Khaya Zondo

Qantas tour of South Africa

Australia squad: Steve Smith (c), David Warner (vc), Cameron Bancroft, Jackson Bird, Pat Cummins, Peter Handscomb, Josh Hazlewood, Jon Holland, Usman Khawaja, Nathan Lyon, Mitchell Marsh, Shaun Marsh, Tim Paine, Jhye Richardson, Mitchell Starc.

Warm-up match v SA Invitational XI, Sahara Park, Benoni, Feb 22-24

First Test Kingsmead, Durban, March 1-5

Second Test St George's Park, Port Elizabeth, March 9-13

Third Test Newlands, Cape Town, March 22-26

Fourth Test Wanderers, Johannesburg, March 30-April 3

Visit cricket.com.au/travel for more information