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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 September 2018

Toby Roland-Jones to make England debut against South Africa with Mark Wood 'not 100 per cent fit'

South Africa captain Faf du Plessis confirmed seamer Kagiso Rabada will return to the starting line-up after missing the second Test through suspension for swearing

Toby Roland-Jones in discussion with teammates during an England net session at The Kia Oval on July 26, 2017 in London, England.  Mike Hewitt / Getty Images
Toby Roland-Jones in discussion with teammates during an England net session at The Kia Oval on July 26, 2017 in London, England. Mike Hewitt / Getty Images

Toby Roland-Jones will make his England Test debut against South Africa at The Oval after Mark Wood was ruled out through injury.

The Durham seam bowler missed the final training session on Wednesday due to an ongoing heel problem, paving the way for Middlesex paceman Roland-Jones to tackle South Africa in the third Test starting Thursday.

England captain Joe Root told a news conference: “Wood is not 100 per cent fit so he’s going to miss out this week and Toby Roland-Jones comes in for a debut.”

Roland-Jones’ county teammate Steven Finn has been called-up on standby.

Root backed the 29-year-old seamer to stand up to the challenge that the Proteas pose and backed him to replicate his impressive County Championship form in recent seasons.

He said: “Toby has been, in the lead up to the other games, really good in practice and he has obviously had a fine couple of years and it is a very exciting time, as it is for anyone who makes their Test debut.

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“I’m really excited for him and I’m sure he’s desperate to show everyone what he can do with the red ball for England.”

Wood has struggled with injuries throughout his career, which has restricted the 27-year-old fast bowler to just 10 Test matches since making his debut in 2015 against New Zealand, but the England captain did not seem too worried by the latest setback.

He said: “I don’t think it’s a concern, it is the nature of how he throws himself into his work.

“I think he is learning about his body all the time and I can’t see him missing out too much longer. He’s a strong character who is desperate to play for England.”

There could also be another debutant in the 100th Test to be played at The Oval with batsman Dawid Malan in contention to make his first start in the longer format of the game at the expense of all-rounder Liam Dawson.

Root said the Malan or Dawson decision would be taken in the morning.

“I’ll have a look at the wicket tomorrow and decide what is happening then,” he said.

“I think it is important to look at the surface and see what we think is going to be the best side to take South Africa on in those conditions. So we will turn up tomorrow and look at the wicket and consider then.”

Root’s side drew criticism from pundits for the manner of their 340-run second Test defeat at Trent Bridge, which brought the four-match series level at 1-1, as England lost all 20 wickets inside 100 overs, but the Yorkshireman is adamant his team will turn things around.

Speaking about the defeat, he added: “It is never a good thing is it [to lose]? I think the most important thing is that we learn from the experience and make sure we keep looking to improve.

“I think they are entitled to their opinions. Obviously we were not good enough, there’s no point hiding behind it or making excuses, but most importantly it is about the attitude we show this week and that we bounce back from that.

“We have a settled dressing room, which is desperate to get better, and we know we are a better side than what performed last week.”

The 26-year-old England captain is confident his side can regain their advantage in the series with victory in Surrey after being impressed with the strong mentality of his players ahead of the third Test.

“In the last couple days of training the boys have worked very hard and we need to make sure that we start well this week,” Root said.

“We had a bit of time to reflect and I think the boys have gone away and had a think themselves and I think that everyone seems very focused on how they want to go about things this week, which is really good leading into a really important game for us.”

Meanwhile, South Africa captain Faf du Plessis confirmed seamer Kagiso Rabada will return to the starting line-up after missing the second Test through suspension for swearing at England all-rounder Ben Stokes in the opening match of the series.

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