January 24, 2020 / 8:21 AM / 24 days ago

Cricket-Rain delays play at start of fourth test

JOHANNESBURG, Jan 24 (Reuters) - Rain delayed the toss and the start of play on the opening day of the fourth and final test between South Africa and England, with poor weather set to restrict activity at the Wanderers on Friday.

Sunny days of preparation were replaced by grey cloud and a steady drizzle over Johannesburg, with the bad weather predicted to clear only briefly around lunchtime before a typical Highveld afternoon thunderstorm is due.

Both teams delayed their departure from nearby hotels to a near-empty ground.

Clarity on the respective team selection was still awaited but Jofra Archer was expected back as England consider a five-man seam attack but without Mark Wood.

Archer, who made a major impact when he burst on the international scene last year, missed the last two tests because of an elbow injury but is expected to relish the quick wicket in Johannesburg.

Wood, who took three wickets in England’s emphatic third test triumph in Port Elizabeth, is expected to sit out after struggling in Thursday’s final practice. It had always been touch-and-go whether he would be able to play back-to-back tests for the first time since 2015.

Chris Woakes should get his first run out on the tour in place of spinner Dom Bess.

South Africa, who need to win to square the four-match series 2-2, have already confirmed Temba Bavuma will return to their batting line-up, with Zubayr Hamza dropped, but must still decide how to fill the gap left by the suspension of top bowler Kagiso Rabada.

He sits out the match after being handed a one-match ban by the International Cricket Council.

The test also marks the last for 34-year-old Vernon Philander, who will join Somerset later this year.

He has taken 222 test wickets at an average of 22.29 with the Wanderers among his most successful arenas. (Writing by Mark Gleeson Editing by David Holmes)

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