England’s chances of winning the Test series in South Africa have been hit by the news that Jimmy Anderson has been ruled out of the final two Tests with a left-rib injury.
Anderson sustained the problem, which is understood to be bone-related rather than a soft tissue injury, on the final day of the dramatic 189‑run win at Newlands that squared the series at 1-1 with two matches to play.
Despite finishing the contest on the field, Anderson was forced to take painkillers to continue and was visibly in discomfort when he bowled a two‑over spell during the final session. He had an MRI scan on Wednesday morning and the results confirmed England’s worst fears, with the 37‑year‑old bowler expected to be out for between six and eight weeks.
“Anderson felt tightness and discomfort at the end of the morning session on day five and was only able to bowl eight overs during the day,” said an England statement. “He will return to the UK in the next few days. Somerset seamer Craig Overton will remain in South Africa as cover.”
Before the scan results were known, Ashley Giles, England’s director of cricket, said of Anderson: “He’s been such a great servant that we’re holding our breath and [have] fingers crossed for him. We’ll be desperate if Jim was injured again.”
The results mean England’s all‑time leading wicket-taker has been ruled out of the remaining two Tests in Port Elizabeth, starting on 16 January, and Johannesburg starting eight days later.
It is another blow to Anderson, who took five months to come back from the calf injury he sustained on the opening day of the Ashes series against Australia at Edgbaston last summer.
Anderson was England’s leading wicket-taker during the second Test at Newlands, taking five for 40 in South Africa’s first innings and another two in the second.
After the third day’s play, he said: “It was a real battle. That’s why I still want to play cricket, that’s what I get a buzz off – coming off the field after a day like that. It makes all that hard work I’ve put in and the frustration of missing three or four months worthwhile.”
This latest injury will again raise fears over his future. Anderson was expected to miss the two-Test tour of Sri Lanka in March even if fully fit. But he is unlikely to call time on a career that has brought him 584 Test wickets before the summer’s Test series against West Indies and Pakistan, where he would have up to six matches to become the first seam bowler to reach 600 wickets.
His injury continues the theme of a tour that Ben Stokes said the players thought was cursed before they won in Cape Town, given the sickness bug that swept through the camp during the first Test defeat at Centurion and the ankle injury sustained by Rory Burns playing football on the eve of the second Test that has ruled the opener out for four months.
England at least expect Jofra Archer and Mark Wood, their two quickest bowlers, to be fit for the third Test in Port Elizabeth.
Archer was ruled out of the Cape Town Test with an elbow problem that scans have since showed is just inflammation rather than anything more sinister. Wood, who has not played for England since the World Cup final against New Zealand in July, is now fully recovered from knee and side injuries and is back bowling at full pace in the nets.
Meanwhile, Jos Buttler is expected to be reprimanded by the International Cricket Council for a level one breach of their code of conduct after stump mics picked up the England wicketkeeper abusing Vernon Philander during the final session at Newlands.
Buttler was heard swearing repeatedly at Philander when he was batting. A level one breach is likely to mean Buttler receiving one demerit point and being fined 50% of his match fee.