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Fears for Boucher following eye injury

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South Africa wicketkeeper Mark Boucher is a major doubt for the Investec Test series against England after he underwent surgery on his left eye on the first day of the tour.

Boucher, who at 35 had hinted he was considering retirement after the series, was struck by a bail during the opening afternoon of the two-day tour match against Somerset at Taunton.

Boucher was helped from the field with blood coming from his eye after the incident, which occurred when leg-spinner Imran Tahir bowled Gemaal Hussain. The wicketkeeper, wearing a cap rather than a helmet, had been standing up to the stumps.

At the end of play South Africa team manager Dr Mohammed Moosajee said: "It is a significant injury. Mark sustained a direct blow to the left eye, which resulted in a laceration to the white part. It is what we call an eyeball rupture.

"The ophthalmic surgeon had a look at him at the Accident and Emergency Unit and decided that he needed to undergo exploratory surgery to identify the extent of the damage.

"He will need a general anaesthetic so there has to be a six-hour gap since he last ate a meal. That means the operation will be performed at around 7pm.

"After the operation we will talk to the surgeon again. With eye injuries one cannot make predictions.

"From a medical point of view a lot depends on whether there is damage to the retina, which allows us to see and focus. We won't know about that until after the surgery.

Mark Boucher

South Africa's players show concern for Mark Boucher, who was taken to hospital this afternoon after being hit in the face by a bail

"The surgeons will be able to give us a better indication of the damage after the operation. Then it will take 48 to 72 hours for the swelling to start going down."

Dr Moosajee was more worried about Boucher's health than his place in the side but a decision will have to be made whether to continue with AB de Villiers keeping wicket or send for specialist replacement Thami Tsolekile.

"The concern at the moment is for Mark Boucher the patient, rather than whether he is going to take part in the rest of the tour," he said.

"The selectors back home are being kept abreast of what is happening. I don't think he will be ready for the first Test, if the series, but I would like to wait for the information the surgery gives us."

South Africa coach Allan Donald was distraught for his former team-mate, who had big plans for the current tour.

"He wanted to finish here. He's been talking about maybe going, if needed, to Australia but he wanted to go out on a real high in England," Donald told Sky Sports News.

"I can't think of a bigger kick in the teeth than that.

"To happen on the first day is a cruel blow. Let's just hope he is going to be okay and take it from there."

Somerset's Peter Trego, a centurion on the day, said: "All our thoughts are with Mark Boucher. Sight is such an important thing for a cricketer and we all hope the injury is not as serious as it looked."

South Africa were already without batsman Alviro Petersen and young seamer Marchant de Lange.

Opener Petersen is suffering from an inflamed toe on his left foot, while de Lange continues to be hampered by lower back spasms.

After losing the toss and being invited to field first this morning, Proteas skipper Graeme Smith confirmed neither man would take part in his side’s opening fixture, in which both teams are permitted to use more than 11 players.

Petersen appears certain to be fully fit for the start of the Investec Test series with England, beginning at the Kia Oval on July 19, although Smith conceded there were minor concerns over de Lange, whose progress will be monitored ahead of the three-day game against Kent later this week.

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