England Head Coach Trevor Bayliss has confirmed that “the signs look good” for record Test wicket-taker James Anderson to return from injury in Cape Town.
The 33-year-old seamer was ruled out of the first Test with a calf injury and, while his team-mates clinched a 241-run victory, he was confined to proving his fitness with just a three-day turnaround between matches.
Anderson was most significantly put through his paces before play yesterday, bowling the equivalent of a six-over spell, and captain Alastair Cook suggested after the game that he had come through unscathed.
A final decision on Anderson’s fitness is set to be made on the eve of the second Test.
“We have practice the day before, the signs look good and he's been working hard but we have to wait and see how he pulls up,” said Bayliss, who admitted that confidence was high after pulling off such a convincing win without their premier seamer.
“A lot of confidence, one of our goals at the start of this tour was to play some good cricket and we're very happy we've been able to achieve that.
“To win the game, we couldn't have got off to a better start.”
England’s bowlers stepped up in Durban without the comfort of Anderson’s 426 Test wickets.
Steven Finn then proved he is back fit and firing, after he was a late addition to the squad due to injury, as he claimed four wickets in the second innings.
That meant that the Middlesex quick, who made his return to Test cricket after two years during the Ashes, finished the year with the best strike-rate of any Test bowler to have delivered more than 70 overs in 2015.
Finn was the fastest England bowler to 50 Test wickets before his spell out of the team and Bayliss thinks if he can maintain his fitness the right-armer will be an invaluable part of his plans.
“He has bowled extremely well - he's been around a while but he's only 26,” he said.
“He's one of those young players on the way up, His next three, four, five years could be very, very good. When he hits the seam and a good length he's tough to play.
“It made it very difficult for the batters. That's what we wanted in the fourth innings.
“We didn't do it before tea but we were able to get it back in that last session on the fourth day.”
While Bayliss was impressed with the performance in Durban he still feels there are areas his side must improve, most notably with the bat.
The Australian has targeted more centuries from his side after Proteas opener Dean Elgar was the only batsman to reach three figures in the first Test.
“Yes, definitely, we are by no means the finished article. I thought both innings we left 100 runs out there,” he said.
“I liken it to a young batter trying to get his first hundred, getting over the hump.
“They were tough conditions but the best teams, the ones who get to the top, there are one or two guys who will score hundreds in the tough conditions - scores of 130,140 ... and then we make an extra 100 runs.
“Then the result is a foregone before the third innings starts.”