Chris Silverwood has insisted England “will not be afraid” to take tough selection decisions if necessary.
Silverwood, the England coach, will have to weigh up whether or not his side should pick a spinner for the second Test in Cape Town starting on January 3. If they do, it could leave him and Joe Root, the two men who will select the team for that Test, with a tricky decision over which seamer to leave out.
With Sam Curran having been the pick of the bowlers in the first innings and Jofra Archer having taken a five-wicket haul in the second, that may leave Silverwood and Root with the tough decision between selecting only one of James Anderson and Stuart Broad.
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But while Silverwood said he would not shy away from such a selection – and accepted that England’s bowling plans had gone “off-piste” for a while on the third morning – he underlined his faith in his senior players.
“In Jimmy and Stuart we have a wealth of experience and we’d be really stupid not to take that into consideration every game,” Silverwood said. “It would be naïve of us not to do that.
“But equally you do want your youngsters to come through and if we’re going to make room for a spinner then we’ve got to have a look at that.
“We have to look at which seamers will be right for that particular pitch and choose from there. If there is a big decision to be made, we’re not afraid to make it.
“We started off planning the bowl at the top of off [stump] on the third morning. Then the tailenders frustrated us and we went off-piste a bit at that point. We formulated a new plan and that worked well. We’ve got to make sure that when we’re bowling we’re very clear on what we have to do and we stick to the plan.”
Any decision over Broad and Anderson is complicated by the context of the first Test. Broad was recovering from illness and will probably be back to full fitness next week, while Anderson was playing his first first-class game for many months and, again, may feel he is better placed for next week’s game.
It is far from certain England will select a spinner in Cape Town. Spin was almost irrelevant in the last Test on the ground – South Africa picked an all-seam attack – and, with Jack Leach unlikely to be available, England may keep faith with the all-seam attack which claimed all 20 wickets in a Test for them the first time this winter.
Silverwood also promised to keep faith with Jonny Bairstow and Jos Buttler. Neither man has made a Test century this year – Buttler has made just one in his 38 Tests and is averaging 25.10 this year with one half-century in his last 14 innings; Bairstow is averaging just 18.55 with one half-century in his last 16 innings – but Silverwood’s underlying confidence in them remains high.
“We’ve just got to keep backing them as we know they’re both very fine players,” Silverwood said. “They’re an asset to a team.
“Jonny wasn’t in the team going into New Zealand, but he did a lot of work behind the scenes. He was in Potchefstroom and then Cape Town with the fast-bowling group, facing the bowlers and working on his game. He worked particularly hard and earned his way back into this team.
“He got his chance when Ollie Pope went down ill and took over the gloves when Jos went down. So he’s a great asset to have, somebody like that who can take over the gloves and is a fine player.”
“We know Jos is a fine player and we know he can hurt people. We’ve got to keep giving him the opportunity to do that.
“Jos in in a position where he will sometimes have to marshal the tail as well. That’s the unique challenge of batting at No. 7. But equally he can go out there are really hurt people at times. At the moment, we feel he’s best suited to that position.”
England travel to Cape Town on New Year’s Eve and will train at Newlands on New Year’s Day.