PRETORIA: James Anderson’s return from injury could not be more timely for England, who are still unsure about the make-up of their bowling attack as they head into the first Test against South Africa.
But while Jofra Archer and Stuart Broad are still not sure of playing in the match, which starts on Boxing Day, after being laid low with flu, Anderson will be back on the frontline for what will be his 150th Test.
England are expected to field a five-man seam attack, foregoing spin, if all their pacemen are fully fit. However, that situation may need to be reassessed based on the availability of Ben Stokes.
The all-rounder’s father was admitted to hospital in Johannesburg his condition was described as being “critical” yesterday in a statement from the England and Wales Cricket Board.
Ged Stokes, a former New Zealand rugby league player, had suffered a “serious illness” on Monday.
The first Test of the four-match series with South Africa starts in Centurion near Pretoria tomorrow.
“The all-rounder will not be at England’s training session at SuperSport Park this afternoon so that he can be at his father’s bedside,” the ECB statement said.
Stokes, named BBC Sports Personality of the Year after his heroics in helping England lift the Cricket World Cup, is a vital member of the team, providing balance to the line-up as both a front-line batsman and bowler.
The 37-year-old Anderson will be the ninth cricketer to reach the 150-Test milestone – joining the likes of Sachin Tendulkar, Steve Waugh and Jacques Kallis – when he makes his return to the England attack for the first time since limping off with a calf injury at the start of the Ashes in August.
“He’s looking as good as I’ve ever seen him,” said captain Joe Root.
Anderson had arrived in the country ahead of the majority of the England squad to attend a fast bowlers’ camp, underlining his desire to get back into the team.
“It feels like a long time since I’ve played a competitive game so to get some overs ... was very pleasing,” he told reporters.
“There was a bit of rust but that’s to be expected having not played for four or five months. I’m just happy to be back out there.”
Anderson was only 20 when he made his debut, taking five wickets against Zimbabwe at Lord’s in 2003, and last month said he wanted to continue through to the next Ashes series, which will start at the end of 2021 in Australia.
“I still want to do it, that’s part of the reason I worked so hard to get back,” added England’s record wicket taker with 575 Test scalps.
“It’s something I love and I still feel I’ve got something to offer, so that hunger and desire to get back is still very much there.”