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South Africa wicketkeeper Mark Boucher is set to undergo eye surgery on Monday after suffering a freak accident during the first day of the Proteas' tour opener against English county Somerset at Taunton.

The 35-year-old was hit in the face when a bail ricocheted off the stumps as Gemaal Hussain was bowled by legspinner Imran Tahir.

Boucher was standing up to the stumps, but he was wearing a cap rather than a helmet.

After receiving treatment on the field, Boucher was helped off with blood coming from his left eye.

His place behind the stumps was taken by AB de Villiers, who has kept wicket in international matches for South Africa.

The tourists later revealed Boucher had suffered a cut to the eyeball, with team manager Dr Mohammed Moosajee telling the Cricket South Africa website: "Mark suffered a laceration to the sclera (white area) of his left eye.

"He will undergo emergency exploratory surgery in the next few hours, after which the ophthalmologist will be able to determine the extent of the damage."

Former England wicket-keeper Paul Downton eventually had to retire after he too was hit in the face by a bail while standing up to the stumps in 1990.

Boucher has been a mainstay of the South Africa side for 15 years, appearing in 147 Tests and becoming the first wicket-keeper to take 500 catches in Test cricket, and scoring five hundreds.

South Africa's three-Test series against England starts at The Oval on July 19, with the world No.1 ranking in the five-day game up for grabs.

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