England may well have every fast bowler in their squad available for selection for their third Test against South Africa, with Jofra Archer and Mark Wood continuing on their recovery paths.
Archer was ruled out of the second Test at Cape Town with an elbow injury, and, after initial scans were inconclusive, it had been feared that he might be out of the series. However, a second scan showed no serious damage.
Wood’s last Test came almost a year ago, at St. Lucia against West Indies, and that was his first Test appearance since May 2018, with a slew of injuries hampering his progress, most recently to his knee and side. However, that game also showed why England are so keen to persist with Wood, the Durham seamer bowling one of the fastest spells in England Test history to claim a match-winning five-wicket haul.
He was selected in England’s squad to face South Africa despite it being unlikely he would play a part in the early stages of the series, and with the right-armer stepping up his recovery, the break between the second and third Test could come at the perfect time for him to show what he is capable of in an extended training stretch, though there will be no warm-up game for him to gain match fitness in.
Their returns mean England will face a problem of plenty on a tour when the issue has so often been just getting a fit XI on the park. Before Archer was ruled out of the second Test, England faced a dilemma over which of him, Stuart Broad, James Anderson, and Sam Curran to leave out to fit in a spinner, and that decision will present itself again, and the return of Wood would only complicating matters.
It may well be a crucial decision ahead of a must-win game too, with South Africa enjoying the better of the second Test match at Cape Town. Should they win, England will need to win the final two games of the series to snatch a draw.