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Jofra Archer pushing for Wanderers recall after sharp spell in England nets

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Jofra Archer has made a strong case for a recall to England’s Test side with an eye-catching performance in the nets.

Archer, who has missed the previous two Tests due to an elbow injury, generated impressive pace during a seven-over spell in Johannesburg on Wednesday. Jos Buttler, one of the unfortunate batsman who had to face him, was hit on the body on a couple of occasions and edged a couple of other deliveries.

ALSO READ: Archer deserves support, not suspicion

At a ground which traditionally provides some encouragement for pace bowling – it’s 6,000 feet above sea level meaning the ball tends to carry further (off the pitch and the bat) and, it seems, faster – England will be keen to include Archer against a South Africa team who looked uncomfortable against Mark Wood‘s pace in Port Elizabeth. In a perfect world, England would probably like to include both Wood and Archer.

It’s far from certain that either of them will be fit at this stage, though. Archer will be required to prove that he has come through Wednesday’s spell without any repercussions in training on Thursday, while Wood – and the other bowlers who played in Port Elizabeth – was given an extra day off on Wednesday. Wood, too, will need to show his match fitness in training on Thursday. Somewhat ominously, given his fitness record, he was described as “sore” by the England management after his exertions in the third Test.

If both are deemed fully fit, the England management will face a tough decision over who to leave out. One option will be to revert to a five-man seam attack – as they did in the final Test in New Zealand and the first Test of this tour – meaning no place for the offspin of Dom Bess. That would be tough on Bess, who claimed a maiden five-wicket haul in Port Elizabeth, and it may be he would also enjoy the extra bounce in this surface. England may feel that Joe Root, who claimed four wickets with his own offspin in the second innings in Port Elizabeth, is capable of supplying the spin they will require.

The other options is to leave out one of Sam Curran or Stuart Broad. Broad claimed 6 for 17 in the second innings here four years ago, however, and would appear to have the perfect game for the ground, while Curran continues to contribute with bat and ball – of England bowlers, only Broad (with 12) has taken more than his nine wickets in the series while he made a brisk 44 in Port Elizabeth – and England appreciate the variety his left-arm angle provides.

At this stand, though, it seems more likely Archer will make a straight swap with Wood. The last time Wood played back-to-back Tests was in July 2017, when he finished with figures of 0 for 129 from 35 overs in the second match. He is, however, a better bowler now and, since he increased his run-up towards the end of 2018, puts less stress through his body in delivery.

“Historically, it’s a pitch which has good carry and pace and generally starts softer then quickens up”

Graham Thorpe

“Jofra had good rhythm and bowled nice and quick today,” Graham Thorpe, one of England’s assistant coaches, told TalkSPORT. “That’s where we want Jof to be. He looks good, but he will have to come in again tomorrow and back it up.

“The elbow problem has been a big issue for him. You can’t force that; you have to wait for the player to be confident with it.

“Mark Wood hasn’t played back-to-back Test matches for a while, but he bowled exceptionally well for us in Port Elizabeth. He bowled at high speeds of 90mph plus and gave us an X-factor. We’ll have to see how he is and I’m sure Woody will be really honest with us.

“Historically, it’s a pitch which has good carry and pace and generally starts softer then quickens up. It has that carry which bowlers, batters and spinners alike enjoy.

“It would be tough if Bess didn’t play this Test. He has done himself no harm, though, in the way he has come into the set-up and the way he’s bowled. He’s progressed from the last time I saw him about six months ago and when you perform it gives you confidence. So we won’t rush straight into a decision, it’ll be nice to have all those options on the table.”

It doesn’t appear there will be much discussion over Buttler’s place. He hasn’t been at his best with the bat or the gloves in this series – he is averaging 17.40 – and struggled in the nets on Wednesday. He lost his middle stump to Chris Woakes – who is bowling nicely but seems to have little prospect of forcing his way into the side at present – and was hurried by Archer. Jonny Bairstow, who batted after him in the nets, looked more comfortable.

But England have invested a lot of time in Buttler and they are not set to abandon him just yet. He may well need a good Test here, though, with talk of a recall for Ben Foakes for the Sri Lanka tour growing.

“I am really confident that Jos will have a good Test match here,” Thorpe said. “The most important thing is getting the mindset right of all our players. There are guys who have been performing well and guys who might feel individually that they want to do more. Jos might have an edge of frustration but I can see the way he’s working. For me, he looks in good form and it’s a matter of time before he gets a score for us.”

Most of the team involved in the third Test took the day off on Wednesday. All will train on Thursday, with the match starting on Friday.



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Recent Match Report – Queensland vs Tasmania, Sheffield Shield, 21st Match

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Tasmania 78 and 4 for 72 trail Queensland 257 (Khawaja 56, Bird 4-68) by 107 runs

Tasmania’s horror match with the bat continued at the Gabba as they lost three second-innings wickets without a run on the board to leave them facing an innings defeat against Queensland.

A battling half-century from Usman Khawaja and handy lower-order contributions had taken Queensland to a lead of 179 after they had dismantled Tasmania for 78 on the opening day.

In reply, Alex Doolan, Jordan Silk (who bagged a pair) and Jake Doran all fell for ducks against Michael Neser and Jack Wildermuth.

They regained some composure as Charlie Wakim and Ben McDermott added 72 but Wakim was pinned lbw by Mitchell Swepson late in the day.

Queensland were already in the lead overnight but Tasmania mounted something of a fightback as they chipped away. Bryce Street’s 171-ball stay ended when he edged Jackson Bird and Sam Heazlett was given caught down the leg side.

Khawaja held the innings together with his second Shield half-century of the season before the hard work ended when a booming drive was edged to second slip. Cameron Gannon and Mark Steketee chipped in with 20s from Nos. 9 and 10. The innings was wrapped up by the offspin of Beau Webster who, in a game dominated by the seamers, finished with 3 for 44.



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Recent Match Report – New South Wales vs Victoria, Sheffield Shield, 19th Match

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New South Wales 4 for 201 (Patterson 54) trail 7 for 431 (Gotch 100*, Maddinson 95, Dean 71) by 230 runs

Wil Parker, the 17-year-old debutant legspinner, claimed two big scalps to keep Victoria on top against New South Wales at the SCG after Seb Gotch had scored his maiden first-class century.

Victoria declared on 7 fo 431 shortly before lunch moments after Gotch had brought up three figures. The New South Wales openers departed after a half-century opening stand but Kurtis Patterson, playing his first Shield match since October, and Moises Henriques both looked in fine form as they added 102 deep into the final.

Then Parker, who had bowled nicely in his first spell, returned to manufacture back-to-back breakthroughs. His maiden first-class wicket came when he slid a delivery across Patterson as he came down the pitch, the ball grazing the edge before Gotch completed the stumping. In his next over he then benefited from some significant fortune when Henriques bottom-edged a pull into his leg which ballooned to slip.

Daniel Solway and captain Peter Nevill saw out the rest of the day but New South Wales have a lengthy tail so there was considerable work to do.

Gotch and Travis Dean had resumed with Victoria well placed on 5 for 318 and carried their stand to 150 in 50 overs with Dean making his highest first-class score in 21 innings after retiring hurt yesterday following the blow in the box from Trent Copeland.

Dean eventually fell when he top edged a sweep off Steve O’Keefe while Gotch continued to carefully accumulate towards his hundred having twice fallen shortly previously in his career. The century arrived from 241 balls with a single off Liam Hatcher.

Armed with a new Duke ball, Victoria’s seamers found early movement – Gotch had a difficult time behind the stumps – but it took a while to break through as Daniel Hughes and Nick Larkin settled in. Scott Boland claimed the first breakthrough when he trapped Larkin lbw then Will Sutherland, who began with four consecutive maidens either side of a brief rain delay, produced an excellent delivery to beat Hughes’ inside edge.

Patterson, recovered from the quad strain which has disrupted his season, was soon into his stride has he played elegantly off front and back foot while Henriques continued the form he showed before the Big Bash. However, just when they were taking the competition leaders into a position of parity, Parker popped up to produce a moment he’ll remember.



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Lockie Ferguson not rushing return from calf injury

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New Zealand quick Lockie Ferguson is looking to be “conservative” with his calf injury, instead of rushing back into long-format cricket and risking doing more damage.

Ferguson went down with a calf strain on Test debut, against Australia in Perth in mid-December. He returned to top-flight action on February 9, bowling 10 overs for Auckland in the domestic one-day competition, the Ford Trophy. He is set to play in the tournament’s final on Sunday, and has been in touch with New Zealand coach Gary Stead about his recovery process.

“Me and Steady talk all the time – he was asking me how I fared in my first domestic game back, then he was asking me how I was going preparing for the weekend,” Ferguson said, according to Stuff.co.nz. “Of course the goal is for me to get back as soon as possible, but there is so much cricket coming up this year.

“We’ve got a lot of white-ball stuff and I head away to the IPL as well, so it’s important with a calf injury, where there’s a high percentage chance of re-injury, that we be conservative.

“Sunday’s [final] my focus and then I’ll be looking to play some first-class cricket.”

Stuff also reported that Ferguson had trained with the New Zealand side in Auckland a week ago, when they were in town for the second ODI against India. Returning to Test cricket remains his main goal, Ferguson said.

“Since I started playing professional cricket, it has been my goal to play Test cricket, because personally I feel that’s the biggest challenge. I am obviously super stoked to be playing one-dayers and T20s for New Zealand, I love every moment of it, but playing red-ball has been a big goal of mine.

“On the day [of his Test debut] it wasn’t to be, I only got through 11 overs, and it was really frustrating. But it’s one of those things. When you bowl quick, injuries can sometimes happen.”

New Zealand have a two-match Test series coming up against India later this month, but it remains to be seen if Ferguson is match fit enough to make it to that squad.



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