PCA PRESS RELEASE
Key bowling trio in race for fitness ahead of first Test in Centurion.
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Jofra Archer, Stuart Broad and Jack Leach are fighting to overcome a bout of illness in the England camp as the squad prepare to try and claim a second overseas Test series victory since 2016, with the PCA’s Most Valuable Player Rankings set to keep track of the top performers throughout.
The trio of bowlers, all stars of England’s thrilling 2-2 Specsavers Ashes Series draw with Australia in the summer, have been suffering from flu-like symptoms, and have therefore not bowled a ball between them in the side’s two warm-up fixtures ahead of the first Test.
There have been some signs of recovery over the weekend, though, with all three taking part in a net session on Monday morning in which Archer and Broad managed to get through multiple overs at full pace.
Skipper Joe Root has publicly said that all three will be forced to decide on their own fitness for the game in Centurion, but Somerset duo Dom Bess and Craig Overton have nevertheless been flown out to South Africa to act as emergency cover.
There has, however, been one significant boost for England’s bowling department as the side aims to win a second away Test series since they tasted victory on their last tour of South Africa in 2015/16.
Legendary seam bowler James Anderson is expected to return to the side and lead the attack after missing England’s last six Test matches with a calf injury sustained during the summer.
Should Anderson return, it will be a momentous occasion for the most prolific seam bowler in Test history, as he is set to become just the second man to appear in 150 Test matches for England after former teammate Alastair Cook.
England will certainly benefit from Anderson’s skill and experience, as his previous 149 appearances have seen him claim 575 wickets at 26.94 apiece, 27 five-wicket hauls, best innings figures of 7-42 and best match figures of 11-71.
The Lancashire man goes into the Centurion Test in typically fine form, having claimed figures of 3-41 from a miserly 19 overs in the tour match against South Africa A, which was downgraded from a first-class fixture following the aforementioned outbreak of illness in the England camp.
The other standout performers from that fixture were batsmen Joe Denly and Ollie Pope, who both showed great promise in making their first centuries in England first team colours.
The pair, who were named NatWest PCA Players’ Player of the Year and Young Player of the Year respectively at the Association’s 2018 awards ceremony, made 103 and 132 of England’s total of 456-7 dec. Both will be looking to replicate the feat and bring up three figures for the first time in an official fixture for their country.
As ever, the PCA’s MVP Rankings will be keeping track of the top performers throughout the four-match Test series.
The algorithm, designed by the PCA in conjunction with the players, is designed to recognise match-defining contributions. Bonus points are awarded for disciplines such as scoring runs quickly and claiming top order wickets, on top of traditional batting and bowling averages.
The England men’s MVP was reset for winter 2019/20 ahead of the recent tour of New Zealand, with Sam Curran (64 MVP points) leading from Dawid Malan (63) and Test skipper Root (52) in the cross-format Overall table.
Root’s 52 MVP points see him currently lead the the format-specific Test Rankings, with opening batsman Rory Burns 21 points behind him in second and Curran in third position with 29 points.
Chris Woakes and Broad were the last players to win the Overall and Test MVPs respectively in summer 2019, and the latter will be hoping to make it two MVPs in two if he can recover to full fitness in time for the Boxing Day Test.
View the England MVP Rankings here.
Keep up-to-date with all the latest MVP news by following the @pcaMVP on Twitter.