By Ryan Moran
- James Anderson has been ruled out with a calf strain.
- Chris Woakes, Mark Footitt, and Chris Jordan are in the frame to replace the Lancashire bowler.
- The Three Lions were unbeaten in their two warm up games.
Durban, South Africa- James Anderson misses the first test with a calf injury but who will replace him? What challenge will South Africa pose?
Stuart Broad will take to the Kingsmead turf in Durban without partner in crime Anderson opening the bowling from the opposite end. In the Ashes series, the Lancashire bowler was replaced by Durham fast bowler Mark Wood however, the 25-year-old picked up an ankle injury in the penultimate match in the test series with Pakistan in Dubai. So who will replace Anderson?
England have played two warm up games in preparation for the test series with South Africa playing against an Invitational XI and South Africa A. Mark Footitt has opened the bowling in all four innings alongside Broad, and the Surrey left armer is yet to feature on the international stage unlike Chris Woakes who has found more success in white ball cricket, his last test cap coming at the Oval against India in August 2014. Woakes provides more experience on the international circuit and more strength in depth with the bat from the shorter forms of the game while the final option of Chris Jordan featured as recently as May 2015 under former coach Peter Moores against the West Indies in Bridgetown.
Another pace bowler highly likely to feature in Durban is Steven Finn, a player who was originally not included in the test squad because of a foot injury. The Middlesex bowler took 4-34 on his return in South Africa A’s first innings after it seemed likely the 26-year-old would not be fit for the first test. After rehabilitation and training with his favourite football team Watford, the bowler is available for selection for the first test.
Trevor Bayliss took an interesting position in selecting Samit Patel over Adil Rashid for the tour of South Africa suggesting the conditions in the country made it very unlikely two spinners would be playing in each game. Moeen Ali remains England’s number one spinner and starred heavily in the second innings against South Africa, claiming 6-77 as South Africa A succumbed to a final day defeat. While Ali has been tested as an opening batsman, it seems unlikely the spinner will retain the opening spot alongside Alastair Cook with Alex Hales likely to be Cook’s eighth batting partner in three years.
Hales is yet to make his test debut but with a lack of options on the first class circuit, the Nottinghamshire batsman will be thrown in at the deep end. So far on the tour the 26-year-old only managed eight in both innings against South Africa’s Invitational XI, more success fell his way in the second tour match striking an opening partnership of 112 of which Hales contributed 56 runs in his most recent innings. While the opening batsman dilemma continues, the middle order struck boundary after boundary to confirm their place in the XI that take to the field in Durban.
James Taylor (114) and Ben Stokes (158) retired as out against the Invitational XI while Joe Root struck 117, only to be outdone by Cook with 126, in the victory over South Africa A in preparation for the test series as England’s middle order delivered better scores than the openers, similar to the tour of the UAE. Jonny Bairstow and Jos Buttler are also included in the squad with Bairstow likely to be behind the stumps in Durban.
Bayliss spoke to the BBC about the upcoming test series with South Africa:
“Everyone has scored some runs and taken some wickets so, preparation-wise, it’s as good as we could have hoped for getting ready to play the number one team in the world.”
Bayliss’ test side are currently ranked sixth in the world by the ICC, South Africa currently top the test rankings but are entering a transition period as long serving internationals such as Jacques Kallis and Graeme Smith retired from the international circuit in consecutive years. Even though their most recent test series was lost 3-0, the Proteas possess a squad capable of victory over anyone. AB De Villiers has struggled in recent times but will feature alongside captain Hashim Amla and world class fast bowler Dale Steyn, who has recovered from a groin injury.
Amla spoke highly of Steyn when speaking to the BBC also:
“The way Dale has been bowling in the nets has been unbelievable. He’s been the best bowler in the world for many years. We’re really glad to have him back.”
The most recent tour of South Africa ended in a 1-1 draw as number 11 batsman Graham Onions twice played out for the draw with success to avoid defeat.
England start their South Africa tour in Durban for the first test of a four match series on 26th December.
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