Johannesburg: England bowlers Jofra Archer, Stuart Broad and Jack Leach did not make use of a last opportunity for a bowl in their warm-up match on Sunday, suggesting it could be a close call for their participation in the first Test against South Africa.
The trio have been battling with flu since arriving in South Africa last week, missing the opening two-day warm-up against an Invitation XI and now the second warm-up against South Africa A, which was downgraded from first class status to allow them to possibly play, even on only the last of the three-day match.
But they did not take up the chance and are now in a race against time to be fit for the first Test at Centurion, which starts on Boxing Day.
“It’s a tricky one, it’s going to have to be managed very well, but we are on it,” said England captain Joe Root after the match against South Africa A at Willowmoore Park in Benoni, on the outskirts of Johannesburg, was drawn on Sunday.
“We are trying to make sure we give them the best chance possible. It’s not ideal but when these things happen we just have to get on with it.
“I’m sure they’ll do everything possible over the next couple of days to make sure they are ready and that’s all you can ask.”
“When it comes to it, we have to make some very shrewd decisions. We should not take anything off the table and we’ll evaluate things sensibly when we are in a position to do so,” Root told reporters.
“The next three days are crucial. We’ve managed the illnesses as best we can.”
The three bowlers were among several squad members bedridden for most of last week, kept apart from the rest of the squad for fear of the bug spreading, but did have a brief net session on Saturday.
It opened up the possibility that they might bowl on Sunday but the trio did not arrive at the ground with the rest of the squad, pitching only later for another net session.
The return of James Anderson after injury tempers any blow and Root said he was pleased with bowling contribution from Chris Woakes, Sam Curran, Matt Parkinson and Ben Stokes over the weekend.
“The guys who have played in the game have stood up well and taken that on,” Root added.
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After winning by seven wickets, Root telephoned Rob Lewis, who had been cheering from Galle fort overlooking the cricket stadium.
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The team, led by wicketkeeper-batsman Quinton de Kock, was whisked from the airport under state-head level security accorded by the hosts, the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB).