Bowling a concern for England as South Africa look to regain momentum in Port Elizabeth Test

Jofra Archer not certain to start third Test, Mark Wood's fitness history a concern

PORT ELIZABETH, SOUTH AFRICA - JANUARY 13: England bowlers Mark Wood (r) and Jofra Archer look on during England nets at St George's Park on January 13, 2020 in Port Elizabeth, South Africa. (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)
Powered by automated translation

England enter the third Test against South Africa in Port Elizabeth with momentum behind them but will be weighed down by injuries to key bowlers.

Star all-rounder Ben Stokes pushed England's scoring on the fourth day of the Newlands Test and then did the bulk of the bowling duties following injury to James Anderson to seal victory in the final session on the last day and level the series.

But the difficulties on and off the pitch have taken its toll. Anderson is already out of the series while pace ace Jofra Archer has not recovered from his elbow injury.

Archer is not certain to start the third Test on Thursday, and England need extra pace on the relatively slow surface in Port Elizabeth.

Fast bowler Mark Wood has been impressive in nets in the build-up to the third Test but his poor fitness record and lack of substantial match practice mean the team management will have to think twice before selecting him.

Captain Joe Root said he will wait and see before making his final decision.

"That decision hasn't been made. It's important to use today's session and make sure we've got a really clear understanding of where everybody is at," Root said.

"We need to find that out and make sure we're really clear going into a five-day game that they are able to stand up to the challenges, physically and mentally, having not played for a little while.

"It is the sensible thing to do to hold off, get more information on the pitch and more information on where they're at."

Root said Wood, who has not played any competitive match since the World Cup final win in July, will need to be handled carefully given his fitness record.

"The reason we've been quite cautious in terms of rushing him back is that history. If he's 100 per cent, bowling at 90mph-plus, the skills he has at that pace are going to cause problems and will be a great asset in Test cricket," he said.

South Africa, on the other hand, could hand a debut to seamer Dane Paterson, hoping that reverse-swing will be a factor at St George's Park.

Paterson, 30, has played limited overs cricket for South Africa and captain Faf Du Plessis said he could be in line for a Test debut.

"We are considering the possibility of looking at someone like Dane Paterson," Du Plessis said. "But we have not decided that yet. Obviously for who would be the big question we need to answer.

"It’s about the nature of the ground, conditions here and style of bowling that can work at St George’s. But if you do that (play Paterson) you are going in with one less batter or no spinner."