England’s Jofra Archer has Test recall in his sights

England's bowler Jofra Archer.
England's bowler Jofra Archer.
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England are eyeing all-out pace in the final Test against South Africa and will give Jofra Archer every chance to prove he is ready to join Mark Wood for the decider in Johannesburg.

Having taken a 2-1 series lead with their innings victory at Port Elizabeth, Joe Root’s side are well placed to finish the job in style on a Wanderers pitch renowned as the liveliest on the South African circuit.

In the recent past that might have tipped the scales in favour of the hosts, but, with Dale Steyn retired, Kagiso Rabada banned and Lungi Ngidi injured, they are no longer blessed with multiple genuine speed merchants.

England, on the other hand, will be hoping to send Wood and Archer out together in Test cricket for the first time.

During the World Cup they enjoyed a friendly rivalry as they spurred each other on to bowl faster and both were clocked at more than 95mph during the tournament.

Wood unsettled South Africa with his rapid short-pitched spells at St George’s Park, his first Test appearance in 11 months, but Archer has missed the last two games with pain in his right elbow.

He will hit the nets on Wednesday while Wood and the rest of the playing XI take a deserved day off. If Archer comes through strongly over the next 48 hours, England have a tantalising prospect at their disposal.

“We’ve got a couple of sessions coming up so Jofra will bowl then and, if he’s fit, that’s another great headache, isn’t it? I’ve got to find a way that potentially he comes back in,” said head coach Chris Silverwood.

“Jofra felt good on Monday so hopefully he’s going the right way. We’ve got options available to us and that is superb.”

Another of those options is the dependable but less extravagantly-paced seamers of Chris Woakes, who has yet to feature in the series despite playing a key role throughout 2019.

He led the World Cup winning attack, recorded career-best Test figures of 6-17 against Ireland and played all but one of the five Ashes fixtures.

For now, though, he and fellow 30-year-old Jonny Bairstow are playing the role of onlookers as Root’s team takes on an ever more youthful look in the shape of Dom Sibley, Zak Crawley, Ollie Pope, Sam Curran and Dom Bess – all 24 or under.

Silverwood has no intention of consigning the older heads to the scrap heap, though.

“They’ve still got a huge role to play,” he said.

“We talk about the youngsters a lot, but we need that experience dotted in amongst it as well so they can learn by getting it right rather than making mistakes all the time.

“The great thing for me is we have got the headache of looking at the bench and looking at the players not in the side. That will drive everyone to get better and better.”

One seasoned campaigner not currently on tour, but due to arrive in a matter of days as part of the one-day squad, is Moeen Ali.

He is currently on hiatus from Test cricket and has spoken recently about his disappointment at losing his red-ball contract.

England could well need him for the spin-friendly pitches in Sri Lanka, where they tour in March, and Silverwood declared himself open to thrashing some issues out with the all-rounder.

“I’m very keen to have that chat with him, yes. Moeen’s a great lad and I do enjoy having him around,” he said. “I get on very well with Mo, so at some point we’ll be sat down and have a chat. My door’s always open to him, he knows that. First and foremost we want what’s best for Mo, but to have him around is a great asset.”

South Africa pace bowler Kagiso Rabada, who has been rested for the one-day series, has apologised for letting himself and his team down after he was banned for the final Test.

The 24-year-old will be absent for Friday’s finale following his over-zealous celebration for dismissing Joe Root on the first day in Port Elizabeth.

“It can’t keep happening because I am letting the team down and I am letting myself down,” said Rabada. “That is why it hurts so much.

“It is something that I didn’t expect, but whether it was the right thing or the wrong thing to ban me, the reality is that I am banned.”

Rabada bowled Root for 27 before following through just in front of the England captain, pumping his fists and roaring in celebration.

He was fined 15 per cent of his match fee and picked up a demerit point – taking his tally to the threshold of four in a two-year period.

“I have every belief in anyone who is going to come into my spot, that they have the potential to knock anyone over,” he added.

“I guess it gives me a chance to work on my game, and gives me a chance to have a bit of a rest.”

Tom Westley has been appointed Essex club captain after Ryan Ten Doeschate’s decision to resign only a few months on from leading them to the Specsavers County Championship title.

Ten Doeschate took on the role at the start of the 2016 season and presided over their promotion that year to Division One, where they have topped the table in two of the last three seasons.

However, the 39-year-old Holland international has handed the reins on to Westley, who will now lead the side in the championship and one-day Cup this year, with Simon Harmer continuing as Vitality Blast skipper.