TWO of South Africa’s greatest fast bowlers will go head to head when Hampshire return to Specsavers County Championship action today.

Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel make their respective first-class debuts for Hampshire and Surrey – with Steyn set to share the new ball with their former Proteas teammate Kyel Abbott.

“What a contest it promises to be!” said Surrey captain Rory Burns. “Morne has proved he is back to full fitness after his side injury. He managed to pin me in the nets and broke my necklace with a short ball, so Morne versus Dale and Kyle should be one to watch.”

Morkel, 33, cannot wait to play against his former South Africa teammates Steyn and Abbott in what is bound to be a high-octane return to four-day cricket following the completed group stages of the Royal London One-Day Cup.

Surrey, beaten 50-over competition finalists in each of the last three years, just missed out on qualification from a fiercely-fought South Group this time, but Hampshire are now just one step away from Lord’s after winning themselves a home semi-final by topping the group.

But, first, comes an intriguing championship clash with many other areas of interest in it besides the pace battle between the three world-class South Africans, and following the drawn encounter between the two teams at the Kia Oval in April.

Surrey opener Mark Stoneman might not have chosen Steyn and Abbott as his ideal first red ball opponents since being dropped from England’s Test team, but the game also gives the left-hander a perfect chance to recover his form and showcase his undoubted qualities at the top of the order.

Teenage off spinner Amar Virdi, so impressive in the championship this season with 17 wickets in four matches at just over 19 runs apiece, is almost certain to return while fellow 19-year-old Will Jacks could make a first-class debut after impressing with the bat in the Royal London One-Day Cup.

Hampshire are now without Tom Alsop (hamstring) as well as Sam Northeast, but Liam Dawson, Ian Holland and Sean Ervine are back in a 14-man squad.