Wood, Archer, Woakes, Or Overton?

Are you ready for Port Elizabeth? Personally I’m raring to go. It’s been almost ten days since Newlands and I’m beginning to crave some of the good stuff. Let’s hope for another enthralling contest that convinces the authorities to ditch this 4-day Tests idea.

Speaking of 4-day Tests, the MCC made a short but sweet statement rejecting the idea yesterday. This was a very positive development. The blunt nature of the statement – which was just 40 words – suggests to me that the MCC aren’t enamoured with the idea whatsoever. Good on ’em. I hope the ECB get the message loud and clear.

England are expected to make just the one change at PE – unless the dreaded lurgy returns. Jimmy Anderson has gone home to nurse his sore jib (the poor sod) so England will have to decide which pace bowler will replace him. There are obviously four options: the fit again Mark Wood, Jofra Archer, Chris Woakes, and Craig Overton.

My preference, if I’m being honest with you, would be to see both Wood and Archer in action together at some point. They were an awesome duo during the World Cup and I think they could be incredibly effective when England tour Australia in a couple of years’ time. However, now is probably not the right time for a couple of reasons (a) this would probably mean dropping Sam Curran, who deserves to retain his place on current form, and (b) both of England’s speedsters are under something of a fitness cloud.

Fitness is probably the key issue here. England will need to be 100% sure (or as sure as they can ever be) that both Wood and / or Archer would last the whole 5 days. England have a little bit of breathing room because we field 5 bowlers, but it’s still far from ideal when a team goes a bowler down. Jimmy Anderson’s injury could’ve cost the team victory at Cape Town had Ben Stokes not pulled off more Ben Stokes heroics in the second innings.

Strangely enough, Wood’s fitness actually gives him the edge over a rival for once. He has out-bowled Archer in the nets by all reports, and Archer has been down on pace and down in the dumps because of his sore elbow. Personally I can’t see England risking Archer at this point. Wood, on the other hand, has apparently bowled rapidly in practice.

Selecting Wood, however, is still a little risky. For starters he hasn’t played any cricket for months. He’s bound to be rusty. What’s more, one can’t ignore his reputation for breaking down – although I can’t remember the last time this has happened in-match. Normally he bowls through the pain (or takes pain-killing injections to get through the game) and then misses time afterwards.

Fortunately England do have a couple of reliable foot-soldiers standing by if the management err on the side of caution. Chris Woakes rarely lets England down and his batting is a bonus too. Craig Overton is also available if England feel that an injection of vim and vigour are required.

Personally, if it came down Woakes or Overton then I’m going with the Warwickshire man. The Mighty Woakes was an original pick for this tour, whereas Overton was injury cover, so the former clearly deserves to play if it comes down to the two of them.

One could also argue that Woakes is slightly more skilful and experienced with both bat and ball – although, at 30 and 25 years of age respectively, one might argue that Overton is the coming man. England might also feel that Overton’s height gives him an edge in South African conditions. Woakes is approximately 6 feet tall whereas Overton is a towering 6 feet and four inches.

Personally I’d roll the dice and pick Wood. He’s been bowling thunderbolts in the nets, and if we can bowl like his did in his last Test match at St Lucia then he’ll make a massive difference to England’s attack.

With England highly likely to retain Dom Bess, who performed admirably in a holding role at Newlands, I think we can afford to gamble. I’d expect Bess to bowl a lot of overs at PE because the pitch looks dry and the Sri Lankan spinner De Silver took a 5-fer at this venue last year. This should give the seams adequate time to rest and rotate at the other end.

It also tends to grind my gears – to the extent that a good dose of WD40 is required to lubricate my health and temper – whenever England pick four seamers of similar pace. With Broad, Curran, and Stokes normally operating in the 80s, I feel a bit of extra speed and aggression is exactly what the doctor ordered. I know that Stokes cranked it up to 90mph in the last game, but this has been a somewhat rare occurrence in recent times.

Who would you pick and why?

James Morgan


  • Wood, for the reasons you give (and cross my fingers….).
    Please not Overton – a county trundler with nothing to recommend him at Test level. I’m not even sure they’ve got the best Overton!

  • I would love to see Archer and Wood in action together, but only if both are definitely fit. My choice of attack for PE, given that doubts remain about Wood would be Curran, Archer, Broad and Bess backed up by Stokes. If the pitch looks really flat I might gamble on dropping a batter compared to normal and also bringing in Parkinson for extra variation in the bowling, making the side consist of Sibley, Crawley, Denly, *Root, Stokes,+Buttler, Curran, Bess, Archer, Broad, Parkinson. Whether Curran and Archer share the new ball or Curran and Broad is open for discussion, but I would personally go for the contrasting styles of Curran and Archer with Broad coming on first change after Archer has had five (or absolute maximum six) overs with the new rock.

  • You can’t pick Wood and Archer because there is a real risk that both will break down. Overton is neither here nor there; if a medium pacer is required, to replace Anderson, Woakes is the nearest like for like. It sounds as if Archer is not quite right. Therefore, Woakes or Wood. I am more tempted by Wood, and on a modern tour there will never be a match for him to bowl in that is not a Test, so they must have been prepared to bring him in if fit, and this would be the time. Woakes would be the safe choice, and nothing wrong with that, either.

  • The media are reporting Archer broke down in final practice. Funny how bowlers England obviously don’t want to pick keep being unavailable through injury/illness. I guess it just happens that way.

    Before that news came in Nasser Hussain was spitting blood that England might omit Archer: “Is it because Archer is perceived as being slightly different in his approach to the game, perhaps a little bit difficult for the captain to manage? That should be no reason to shy away from the issue now and take the easier option…. This is not a Jofra Archer issue. It is an English cricket problem. We tend to be wary of people who perhaps are a little unconventional, going back to David Gower and then Kevin Pietersen. The highly talented maverick who wants to do things his own way…. As a captain, you do not want to field 11 ‘yes’ men who all stick to the plans and do what they are told at all times. You want different characters who bring different things and quite often the ones with the X-factor are tricky to manage. It is up to the captain to manage them and make sure they get the best out of them”. Just what some of us were crying out for Hussain to say or write in 2014 and 2015 and yet he never did. Too late now….

    PE is the most subcontintental pitch in SA after Durban so quite why there’s this fixation with playing a paceman is a mystery. Spin and reverse swing are usually the most effective weapons there. The venue for the final Test is much more paceman-friendly and apparently the original plan was to play Wood there. It makes much more sense when his entire history says him getting through back-to-back Tests is hugely improbable.

    Meanwhile the U19s warmed up for their WC by losing to Afghanistan. The ECB’s talent pipeline appears to working well. There’ll probably be some good young SA or WI talent the ECB can poach and then slap themselves on the back that’s all well with the world.

    • The back to back test problem is a great point to raise. I hadn’t considered that. I’ve read journos recommend that Wood should play at PE because the pitch is slow and therefore a bit of extra pace will come in very handy. But I also think it’s hugely unlikely that Wood gets through both Tests unscathed. Wouldn’t it make more sense to rest him for Durban where conditions should suit him even more. Or perhaps they think they’ll get Jofra back by then?

  • The trouble with Woakes is that his overseas record is poor. Overton is not Test level, and by the way they keep including the wrong one, it’s Jamie we want. But err.. he’s got fitness problems. Tom Curran is better than Craig and seems to be overlooked. I suppose one of Archer or Wood but not both. Bess can hold up an end but doesn’t look like a Test wicket taker by a long way. Try the leggie, nothing to lose.

  • With Wood always gaining an extra 5mph for every Test he doesnt play, he must be up to 150mph now. Lets see how South Africa like dealing with a man who averages.. *checks notes* erm… 37 with the ball in Tests.

    I hope he does well but the way his bowling is being talked up reminds me of Sam Curran’s batting hype.

    I would go Woakes and Wood in for Curran and Jimmy. But I accept its all much of a muchness.

  • Since cricket is about entertainment, I would go for Wood. Woakes (when fit and bowling 85mph plus) is fine, but less enjoyable.

    Neither Stokes nor Curran can reliably bowl long economical spells (at less than three an over – although that ought to be Curran’s role, in a rational world), so I suppose Broad may need to take-on that ‘holding’ job, presumably with Bess.

    I see no excuse for Overton in the squad – his presence is a complete mystery.

  • As the MCC have no vested interest in making more room for ODI’s and 20-20’s there was never going to be a logical reason for them agreeing to consider 4 day tests. Good on them being so curt about it anyway.
    Along with all red blooded Englishmen would love to see pacey openers, but over 5 days is it worth risking more fitness problems when you have a fit alternative who at his best is as effective as any bowler we have available
    The other issue is the long tail, Archer and Wood and even Overton give us. At least Woakes has pretentions with the bat and owes us a few runs of late. With Curran showing his batting Imitations without Woakes we potentially start the tail at seven. This put extra pressure on a largely inexperienced top six.

  • I would go for Archer if he’s fit. As A Durham fan I would love to see Wood become a Test regular, but he’s just too fragile to be relied on to get through a Test match.

    Woakes is good in England but he’s been totally found out overseas – he shouldn’t play an away Test again except in an emergency. Overton is a nothing bowler, why he was picked is a mystery!

  • Archer is clearly not fit judging by reports. Wood has not played for months and even when supposed to be fit is only 50/50 to last 5 days. Overton is a very average county seamer. Which only leaves Woakes. And I see posts parroting the old line about an overseas record. Offer him a new ball on a pitch with any help (like Root has with Curran) rather than a battered old kookaburra on a billiard table and you would get the same results as Anderson. If Wood must play bring in Woakes for Curran – he is a class better.


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