Morne Morkel bowling during a test against New Zealand. Photo: Andrew Cornaga/www.photosport.nz

On the face of it, claiming just four England Lions wickets in 80 overs may seem like a rough day at the office for the bowlers, but the South African attack will be more than grateful for the miles picked up in their legs on the final day of their three-day warm-up match at New Road in Worcester on Saturday.

The bowlers usually target just a single spell in a day in such matches to operate at somewhere close to the intensity they will use in a Test and for the two main quick men, Kagiso Rabada and Morné Morkel, that’s exactly what they got yesterday. More than that, the pair got through a combined 32 overs of work - 16 each - on a lovely summer’s day.

That duo will be all the better for the workout as will Chris Morris who started in place of Vernon Philander and bowled 15 overs.

Philander has been bowling in the nets with an eye to having him at full tilt for the opening day of the first Test against England at Lord’s on Thursday.

Frontline spinner Keshav Maharaj bowled 18 overs, which will prove useful for him, too, ahead of the series opener.

The South Africans would also have gathered some data on Keaton Jennings and Gary Ballance who were both named in the England squad and are set to feature in the top-three at Lord’s.

Jennings faced some testing spells from Morkel and Rabada, spending over 90 minutes at the crease to score 39, while Ballance, a mate of England captain Joe Root from Yorkshire, spent just shy of three hours in the middle in making 59, a confidence boosting knock ahead of the series opener.

The England Lions scored 266/4 with the highlight being a century for the 28-year-old right-hander from Essex Tom Westley. He made an unbeaten 106 that included 20 boundaries.

Most of South Africa’s batsmen spent some useful time at the crease on Friday with Heino Kuhn, who is set to make his Test debut at Lord’s, Hashim Amla, Temba Bavuma and Quinton de Kock all scoring half-centuries.

The South Africans will head east to London this morning and from tomorrow will begin earnest preparations for the first Test.

There’ll be a calmer atmosphere around the squad following news that Russell Domingo had reapplied for his job as coach, although there is as yet still no word on whether skipper Faf du Plessis will be heading to London following the birth of he and wife Imari’s first child this week.

Meanwhile, Reuters reports that England have recalled Balance for the first Test with the hosts also naming Middlesex pace bowler Toby Roland-Jones as the only uncapped player in the squad.

Ballance was dropped following a dismal showing during England’s two-Test series against Bangladesh in October but got back on the selectors’ radar after averaging 101 for Yorkshire in the County Championship this season.

“Gary Ballance could play his first Test since October,” national selector James Whitaker said.

“He has been in fantastic touch with the bat in the Championship averaging over 100. He deserves to be included and we feel he will add maturity and experience to our middle-order.”

Durham seamer Mark Wood is also back in the side for the first time since 2015, when injury disrupted his first call-up.

Injuries to Jake Ball and Chris Woakes could see Roland-Jones make his international Test debut at his home ground, while spinner Liam Dawson has been retained after an impressive debut against India in Chennai, leaving no room for Adil Rashid.

“Toby Roland-Jones is a player we have been monitoring for quite some time and deserves his chance,” Whitaker added.

England and South Africa are to play four Tests against each other, with the final Test of the series beginning at Old Trafford on August 4.

England Squad

Joe Root (capt), Moeen Ali, James Anderson, Jonny Bairstow (wk), Gary Ballance, Stuart Broad, Alastair Cook, Liam Dawson, Keaton Jennings, Toby Roland-Jones, Ben Stokes, Mark Wood.

Sunday Independent

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