Collingwood in fitness race ahead of third Test

By Rhys Hayward

Paul Collingwood

Paul Collingwood’s dislocated finger is England’s only major concern ahead of the third Test match with South Africa which gets underway in Cape Town tomorrow.

After recording their first innings victory away from home since the Ashes winning winter of 1986-87 with a thumping innings and 98 win in Durban last week, Andrew Strauss’ men will be aiming to continue their excellent form and wrap up a second consecutive series success in South Africa.

The Hampshire batsman Michael Carberry has been called up as a replacement for the Durham batsman and will be the only potential change to a side which is otherwise expected to remain unchanged.

The 29-year-old Carberry is a solid left-handed batsman who had his best season in County Cricket last year, having settled at Hampshire after inconsistent spells at both Surrey and Kent. He is also one of the finest fieldsmen on the county scene, a part of his game which no doubt tipped the selectors decision making.

The convincing nature of the win in Durban will have convinced the selectors to retain the four man attack which had looked insufficient at times during the opening match at Centurion. Team’s, most notably the Australian sides of the late 90’s and 00’s have been phenomenally successful with just a four man attack but they were blessed with two of the finest bowler’s in the history of the game in Glenn McGrath and Shane Warne.

Both were able to sustain pressure for long periods of time and England’s remarkable destruction of the South African top order on the fourth evening at Durban was due to two bowler’s, Swann and Broad, functioning in much the same manner as the two Australian’s once did.

Swann is the finest bowler in Test cricket at the current time and his ability to pick up wickets from day 1 allows England to bolster their batting line-up with Ian Bell at no. 6. Broad has unfortunately been branded with the McGrath tag since his premature debut three years ago and though he is still far too inconsistent, he has delivered match winning spell’s in two of his last three Test matches.

Each of the England attack are showing constant signs of improvement and whilst there will be occasions to lust after a 5th bowler, possibly as soon as tomorrow, this appears to be the balance Strauss and Flower are happiest with in the post Freddie era and it is here to stay, for this series at least.

Meanwhile the Proteas will have to decide on the fate of their veteran fast-bowler Makhaya Ntini after two listless performances in the series so far. It is an odd cricketing quirk that when a fast bowler loses his ‘nip,’ that extra bit of spice in his bowling which makes all the difference at the highest level, his career can be over almost instantly.

Ntini’s place has been somewhat questionable for a while but it has now become untenable. If South Africa fail to return the impressive Friedel de Vet to the XI then the reasoning can only be that the selectors do not wish to name a team without a black player. Ntini has been a magnificent servant to South African cricket and to allow him to be caught up in a selection controversy would be careless on the behalf of the administrators. One can only urge them to make the correct decision.

England incidentally have lost on their last three visits to Cape Town and their last effort in the penultimate match of a series, the innings defeat at Headingly this summer, will hopefully prove a strong enough incentive to ensure they are not caught out in the cold.

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