Cricket: Silverwood stands by to bolster England

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The Independent Online
CHRIS SILVERWOOD will discover in the next 24 hours whether he is to join England's tour of South Africa as bowling cover for the injured Dean Headley and Andrew Flintoff.

The Yorkshire fast-medium pacer, currently on the A tour in New Zealand, is on stand-by while England decide whether they need reinforcements to ease the loss of both Headley and Flintoff, neither of whom were able to bowl properly in yesterday's net session.

With Silverwood's county colleague, Darren Gough, still feeling his way back having been kept out with general stiffness since the opening match in Randjesfontein, England are in desperate need of cover to ease the burden on Alan Mullally and Andrew Caddick - the only two fit front-line bowlers.

Headley and Flintoff, who are both suffering with back injuries, are to seek further specialist advice today and the England coach, Duncan Fletcher, and captain, Nasser Hussain, will make a decision then in consultation with the chairman of selectors, David Graveney.

Silverwood would be an ideal replacement as he is already match-fit and has more experience than other A-team alternatives. Should he receive the call, he has every chance of playing in the opening Test at Johannesburg on 25 November. Headley, regardless of whether he recovers in time, has bowled only 1.4 overs on the tour so far.

"There is a chance that whoever comes out could play in the Test," Fletcher said. "We've got to test Darren Gough to see if there is any reaction to his bowling. If he has a problem we will have to get someone out here because we don't know how long Dean is going to be out."

England are hopeful Gough will be fit enough to play in this week's tour match against a combined Free State-Griqualand XI, an option which would ease the burden on Mullally and Caddick, who have bowled 117 overs between them already.

Headley will have an injection to ease the pain, with a view to his playing in England's final warm-up match before the Test against a combined Northerns- Gauteng XI at Centurion Park, starting on 18 November.

But perhaps the biggest concern is Flintoff, who had been pencilled in at No 7 for the opening Test, with England hopeful he could add attacking strokeplay to the middle order and fill in with his deceptively quick seam bowling.

Flintoff has already had two sets of injections to cure his back problem, which recurred after bowling in the nets shortly after England's arrival, and the management may consider keeping him on purely as a batsman.

Caddick and Alex Tudor will break off from tour duties to meet the Queen during a specially arranged coaching clinic in Johannesburg today. The two bowlers will coach local schoolchildren in the Alexandra township before meeting the Queen, who is in South Africa for a conference of Commonwealth leaders.

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