England’s leading wicket-taker James Anderson is a doubt for the Boxing Day Test against South Africa with a calf injury.
Anderson has been suffering from tightness in his right calf muscle since the beginning of the trip and has undergone scans to determine the nature of the problem.
It is not thought to be a serious injury, but Anderson will not be risked unless he is fit to play a full part in Durban.
The 33-year-old has bowled just five overs on tour, in a 13-a-side warm-up last week, and did not play in the victory over South Africa A in Pietermaritzburg.
That in itself is not unusual, particularly with just two days between the first two Tests, but he is still experiencing discomfort despite his light workload.
The Lancashire seamer, who is the eighth most prolific bowler in Test history with 426 scalps, ran through his action in the lunch break on Monday and then ventured to the nets.
The tightness continued and he was sent for assessment yesterday morning, with scan results being fed back to England.
Results are expected within 24 hours.
No practice is scheduled for today, leaving just two more sessions – on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day – for Anderson to prove his fitness.
Should he not be ready England are likely to call on Warwickshire’s Chris Woakes, who has impressed on the trip, ahead of the uncapped Mark Footitt.
While Anderson would be a huge loss, England can at least take heart from the last time he failed a fitness test prior to a big match.
A side injury saw him ruled out of the fourth Ashes Test at Trent Bridge, a game that is now remembered for Stuart Broad’s career-best 8-15 as Australia were bowled out for 60.
The question marks over Anderson cast a shadow on what had been a near perfect warm-up programme for the tourists.
With each of the top six making at least a fifty and Alastair Cook, Joe Root, James Taylor and Ben Stokes posting hundreds, the batting has fired, while Steven Finn appears to have booked his place in the side after coming back strongly from a bone stress injury.
South Africa have been suffering similar angst over their lead pace bowler, Dale Steyn, but he has been included in the squad and has been passed fit after groin trouble.
Moeen Ali, meanwhile, has promised to play with freedom against South Africa, after a confidence-boosting end to England’s Test warm-ups.
Moeen made his first significant contribution of the trip on the final morning against South Africa A, spinning his way to figures of 6-77 as the hosts suffered an innings and 91 run defeat in Pietermaritzburg.
Moeen’s spell completed a highly satisfactory workout for the tourists, who easily bested a side packed with Test hopefuls.
England will once again deploy the Worcestershire all-rounder as a No 8 batsman and senior spinner against the Proteas, with the experiment of using him as a makeshift opener having been hastily ditched.
Moeen had been eager to climb the batting order but, with a top score of 35 in six innings against Pakistan, admits he is now excited about reclaiming his old role.
“I can’t wait, I’m actually looking forward to going back to No 8 and playing a few shots, hopefully freeing up,” he said.
“Obviously opening didn’t work. I enjoyed it and it was a really good experience but I didn’t score the runs I’d have liked.
“I probably got caught in two minds at times whether to attack or not, but things like that happen. I’m happy and I don’t mind where I bat, I’ll just look to do my job wherever I bat.”
Moeen has an equally important job to do with the ball.
There has been plenty of talk about the importance of pace bowlers in South Africa, where wickets early on are a must, but when England last toured these parts Graeme Swann was their top wicket-taker.
That probably says more about Swann’s rare quality than anything else, but Moeen proved his value again as half a dozen South Africa A batsmen, including full internationals Quinton De Kock and Rilee Rossouw, fell at his hand.
“It was good because the ball spun up front and that’s what made it a bit difficult for the batsmen,” he said. “It all depends on the wickets, I’m just going to go in and adapt my game: if it spins I’ll try and keep it as simple as I can and if it’s not spinning try and hold up an end.”
Keeping things tight has not always been Moeen’s trump card, but he concedes he is still learning as a bowler.
“I don’t always do that very well but it’s something I’ve been working on since I’ve been here and hopefully I can do that,” he said.
“I felt the Pakistanis played me really well, they were the best I’ve ever bowled at.
“They never once let me settle and knocked me around, which was tough, but I felt like I learned so much from the UAE than I had done in the last couple of years before that.”