• England suffer double blow ahead of SA tour

    England will undertake their Test tour of South Africa without two of their key fast bowlers.

    Neither Steven Finn nor Mark Wood, both of whom played important roles in the regaining of the Ashes last summer, will be in the Test squad, which is to be announced on Thursday.

    Finn acquired a foot injury just before the first Test against Pakistan in Abu Dhabi in October. Wood played in the first two Tests before being ruled out of the last one because of a chronic ankle injury.

    Neither has recovered quickly enough to be considered for selection for the Tests in South Africa. For Wood there will now be urgent consultations with the experts about the possibility of an operation.

    This is a significant blow to England before the four-match series against South Africa, which begins on Boxing Day in Durban. Either Wood or Finn would have been in their Test XI.

    There is better news about Ben Stokes, whose shoulder was displaced when diving in the field in the third Test in Sharjah. He is available for selection. Therefore he will undoubtedly be selected.

    The replacements for Finn and Wood are most likely in Dubai at the moment. England will select five fast bowlers for the tour as well as their all-rounder, Stokes. Obviously Jimmy Anderson and Stuart Broad are certainties. Among the pacemen here are Liam Plunkett, probably the quickest option, plus Chris Jordan and Chris Woakes.

    Other candidates might include Mark Footitt of Surrey, who is 29 yet unproven at the highest level, but is left-handed thereby offering some variety. Another left-armer, David Willey, is in Dubai but his red-ball credentials are currently limited. – The Guardian

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