James Anderson makes England return but illness sweeps camp

James Anderson made his long-awaited return to the England attack but an illness sweeping the camp left Joe Root’s side a depleted force on day two of their opening warm-up match in South Africa.

Jofra Archer, Stuart Broad and Jack Leach were all ruled out of action by a bug which has also affected the coaching staff, while Ben Stokes’ late arrival following his BBC Sports Personality of the Year win and Mark Wood’s ongoing rehabilitation programme stretched the bowling options.

England still managed to bowl out the Invitational XI for 289 in 68 overs, 20 fewer runs than they posted on Tuesday, but leaving the field without any further fitness issues might well be their most pleasing achievement of the day out in Benoni.

Anderson, who has not featured since pulling up with a calf injury on the first morning of the Ashes in August, turned in a rusty initial showing in the morning session but was much improved after lunch and capped a rhythmical spell by snaring Kabelo Sekhukhune’s outside edge.

England had been in an awkward position prior to that breakthrough, with Sekhukhune (65) sharing a free-scoring stand of 133 with Jacques Snyman (79). Things picked up rapidly as Chris Woakes struck three times in 11 deliveries, doing his hopes of turning out at Centurion on Boxing Day no harm.

Sam Curran had earlier removed both openers with the new ball but Root’s side endured a joyless stint of more than 25 overs that saw the scorecard race along to 147 for two at lunch.

Anderson was taken for six boundaries, all in the arc between third man and cover, as his line wavered early on, while Woakes’ early blast and Curran’s second failed to convince.

Most concerning, though, was the treatment doled out to Matt Parkinson, handed extra responsibility in Leach’s absence.

The uncapped Lancastrian had a chastening day, milked for 112 in his 20 overs, including a handful of sixes and one sequence of four consecutive boundaries from the bat of home captain Diego Rosier.

Chris Woakes took three wickets in 11 deliveries for England
Chris Woakes took three wickets in 11 deliveries for England

Two late breakthroughs, including the one which brought an early close to proceedings, will not mask the fact that there is plenty yet to do before he can be considered ready for the Test arena.

That Root proved a safer, and more threatening, spin option with two for 21 in 13 tidy overs only amplified Parkinson’s missed opportunity. England’s best moments came at the start of the afternoon’s play, when they were joined in the field by Stokes and picked up four for 28.

Anderson bowled with greater control as he built up pressure before his wicket, with Woakes taking over, digging in short and drawing the gentlest of mis-hits from Snyman.

He made light work of Kyle Simmonds and Sizwe Masondo, fending to short-leg and nicking off respectively.