Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

England Bowling Trio Facing Fitness D-Day

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

England Bowling Trio Facing Fitness D-Day

Article excerpt

Byline: CRICKET Will Macpherson in Port Elizabeth

A WONDERFUL win in sun-soaked Cape Town, with thousands of travelling fans in attendance and young, old and legendary players to the fore, has given English cricket a newfound feelgood factor at the start of 2020.

It was a win that had the feel of the start of something, and a match that bolstered the argument for five-day Tests, just when it was most needed.

But, as England prepare for their 500th overseas Test, at St George's Park in Port Elizabeth, the after-effects of what jokingly became known as the "cursed tour" still linger.

Joe Root fell ill again, while Jimmy Anderson has joined Rory Burns in returning home injured. For three more players, this afternoon's training session is of crucial importance. Jofra Archer and Mark Wood want to prove their fitness, while on the evidence of yesterday's session Jack Leach is still battling back from the illnesses that wrecked the end of 2019 for him.

There is, naturally, a keenness to get Archer, Wood, or both into the XI before the end of the tour. But both are struggling to be fit for Thursday, with Chris Woakes likeliest to play. The final Test at the Wanderers, where England could revert to a fiveman seam attack, could see the pair unleashed together.

The worries about each are different. Archer is not yet bowling at full tilt after his elbow injury and must show today that he has ramped things up. There was an interesting moment at training yesterday when Ben Stokes interrupted Archer's batting session to tell him to take it more seriously.

Wood is bowling at full tilt, with the trouble being that he has not played a match since the World Cup Final in July, so having confidence that he is ready to enter a Test is very difficult.

A more old-fashioned tour, with warm-up matches between Tests, would have served England well. …

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