England in South Africa 2015-16 December 22, 2015

Anderson doubt for Durban after calf scan

James Anderson's participation in the Boxing Day Test is in doubt after he reported tightness in his right calf.

Anderson, England's record wicket-taker in Test cricket, reported the issue on Monday evening and underwent a scan on Tuesday morning. That scan will be evaluated by the ECB's medical staff in England before a firm decision is taken on his involvement in the Test. That decision is unlikely to be made until Thursday.

Even if the scan clears Anderson of any serious problem, it seems unlikely that England will risk his involvement in the first Test. There are only two days between the first and second Tests and the team management will be anxious to avoid worsening the problem.

Anderson may also be underprepared for what is anticipated to be a hard-fought Test in high temperatures. He has bowled only five overs in match situations on the tour so far and, although the England camp were originally happy with the idea of him coming into the first Test fresh, they had planned for him to bowl flat out in training on the days heading up to the match.

"Unfortunately he hasn't been able to bowl a lot of overs on this tour," Bayliss added. "He has bowled overs though so whatever it is it's not a terribly bad one.

"It's always a concern if your leading bowler or leading batter misses a game somewhere, but the last time he missed one we did pretty well. You never know, I won't make any predictions though."

It seems Anderson has been aware of a tightness in his calf throughout the tour, but felt the situation deteriorate after attempting to bowl flat out in training on Monday afternoon.

Anderson, now aged 33 and a veteran of 110 Tests, was also forced out of the Ashes series at the halfway point due to a side strain. He missed the final two Tests having been forced off the pitch mid-over during the third Test at Edgbaston. While his long-term fitness record remains outstanding - since the start of 2012, only the spinner Rangana Herath has bowled more overs in international cricket - there will be a concern that his heavy workload is starting to catch up with him.

Anderson's status as leader of England's attack remains unquestioned, however. Although Stuart Broad performed brilliantly in his absence in the Ashes Test at Trent Bridge, Anderson was immaculate during the recent tour of the UAE. In conditions offering him little, he conceded fewer than two runs an over and claimed his 13 wickets - more than any seamer on either side - at just 15.61 apiece.

In the absence of Anderson, it is likely that Chris Woakes, who played the last of his four Tests against India at The Oval in August 2014, would win the opportunity to partner Stuart Broad, Steven Finn and Ben Stokes in England's four-man seam attack. Woakes was pencilled in to the side anyway before Finn proved his fitness somewhat ahead of schedule during the tour match at Pietermaritzburg, and underwent a long session of bowling immediately after England wrapped up victory against South Africa A on Tuesday.

England's preparation for the Test series against South Africa had appeared to be progressing remarkably smoothly. They crushed the South Africa A side by an innings in their final warm-up game and, as well as Finn proving his fitness, there have been runs for all the top six and wickets for the spinner, Moeen Ali. Concern over Anderson may take much of the gloss off such an apparently promising start.

George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo

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