England’s selectors are facing a fast-bowling dilemma ahead of their contest against South Africa A: how to manage their resources in such a hectic schedule.
Bearing in mind the fact that the first two Tests are back to back, with just two days’ break between the Durban (26-30 Dec) and Cape Town (2-6 Jan), the England selectors are seriously considering resting James Anderson from the ‘warm-up’ match which starts Sunday in Pietermaritzburg.
England bowling coach Ottis Gibson illustrated the problem: ‘If the same attack plays in the practice match, then they’re playing three games in a row, which will be quite tough. We won’t necessarily play our first choice attack in Pietermaritzburg because you have to look at the long term.
‘We can turn up in Durban, where it could well be very hot. The workload on the seamers and the spinner could be strenuous and we might have to look at a change for Cape Town. We just don’t know yet.’
They will be up against an South Africa A side who have much to prove and will not give quarter, despite the ‘friendly’ nature of the match which will have first-class status.
Quinton de Kock, Dane Vilas, Stephen Cook, Rilee Rossouw and Reeza Hendricks all want to make powerful statements regarding their batting and will be keen to take on the England bowlers. And in support of the Test team, will undoubtedly be keen to grind them down.
If Anderson does not play, he will have bowled just five overs in Potchefstroom, and could go into the first Test ‘undercooked’.
He and Stuart Broad obviously have to play in the two opening Tests, and if one breaks down, Mark Footitt seems to be their understudy. Competing for the role of third seamer would be Chris Woakes, ahead of Chris Jordan, who has yet to play, and Steven Finn, who was flown over from the UAE during the tour opener in Potchefstroom, but who could consider himself the man in possession as he ended the Ashes as third seamer.