James Anderson a fitness doubt for England’s third Test in South Africa

James Anderson is a fitness doubt for England’s third Test against South Africa, after a side injury limited him to two overs after lunch on the final day of their win at Newlands.

Anderson struck early in the day to remove nightwatchman Keshav Maharaj lbw, and took the new ball immediately before lunch, but did not bowl in the afternoon session, spending much of it off the field. He returned to bowl two overs at the beginning of the evening session, but looked in discomfort throughout and was quickly removed from the attack.

With Jofra Archer and Mark Wood both expected to be fit for next Thursday’s Test at Port Elizabeth, and Craig Overton and Chris Woakes also available, it seems unlikely that Anderson will be risked if there are any question marks over his fitness.

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“It’s his side, but it could be just a little niggle,” confirmed Joe Root. “He’ll go for a scan, get some treatment, and we’ll see how he pulls up going into PE. We’ll wait and see.”

“We’ll assess him in the morning and take it from there,” head coach Chris Silverwood told BBC Sport. “We’ve got to make sure he’s all right now.

“When somebody of Jimmy’s quality is potentially going to be missing, it is always going to be a concern for the coach – and concern for the team – because we want him in there. He showed in the first innings that he is a great bowler.”

While there are few doubts about Anderson’s ability – he took 5 for 40 in the first innings, and removed Zubayr Hamza with a textbook spell of reverse-swing bowling in the second – there remain concerns over his long-term durability.

He bowled 37 overs in total at Newlands, having bowled 33 at Centurion in his first Test match back following the injury that limited him to four overs in last summer’s Ashes series. He spent several months training to get back to match fitness ahead of this tour, using Manchester City’s facilities in the UK and arriving in South Africa early as part of an ECB-led camp in Potchefstroom, but said ahead of England’s final warm-up game that he had no targets as to how many Tests he would play in the series.

During his recovery, he lengthened his run-up slightly in an attempt to “use my legs a bit more to generate more momentum up to the crease”, and his bowling speeds have consistently been slightly higher than usual in this series.

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