England captain Joe Root admitted on Sunday that the illness of three front-line bowlers was a concern with the start of a Test series against South Africa only four days away.
England’s final warm-up match, a non-first-class three-day fixture against South Africa A, petered out in a draw at Willowmoore Park on Sunday with the sick trio — Stuart Broad, Jofra Archer and Jack Leach — yet to bowl a ball in a match situation in South Africa.
James Anderson was easily England’s outstanding bowler, taking three for 41 in 19 overs, as South Africa A made 325 for five in reply to England’s 456 for seven declared before play was called off in mid-afternoon.
Root said the England management would have to make some “very shrewd decisions” in finalising their bowling line-up ahead of Thursday’s first Test at Centurion. “It’s going to have to be managed really well but we’re on it, trying to make sure we give them the best chance possible,” said Root.
After missing England’s first match and staying at the team hotel on the first day of the South Africa A game, Broad, Archer and Leach travelled to Benoni on Saturday and Sunday and spent some time practising.
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“Those guys have been very frustrated,” said Root. “They’ve trained as well as they can and over the next few days I’m sure they’ll give a very good account of themselves and make sure they do everything they can to be ready. That’s all you can ask.”
But the England captain suggested they would only be picked for the Test if they fully recovered. “It’s very rare for guys to go into a game carrying an illness. A big part of it is you don’t want to let the rest of the guys down. It’ll be a fine balance.”
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Root said England’s batting, which included hundreds from Joe Denly and Ollie Pope, was a highlight of the drawn match and an example of how England wanted to approach batting, “in the first innings in particular.”
‘In great shape’
He said Anderson, 37, had set an example to younger players with the way he had built up his fitness after being out of action since suffering a calf injury in the first Test against Australia in August. “He hit his straps really well,” said Root. “Jimmy is in great shape, probably as strong as I’ve seen him.”
Keegan Petersen, a late replacement in the South Africa A team, made 111 and shared century partnerships with Rudi Second (55) and Kyle Verreynne (74).