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England's selectors are set to announce a Test squad to travel to South Africa, in which pace-bowling replacements for the injured Mark Wood and Steven Finn will be among the most notable names.
Wood and Finn will both miss the tour through injury, but Ben Stokes is fit again in time to be included.
All-rounder Stokes is understood to have recovered sufficiently from the collar-bone joint injury he suffered fielding in this month's final Test of England's 2-0 series defeat against Pakistan in the United Arab Emirates.
But Finn and Wood are still not ready, with the squad to be announced on Thursday morning.
A bone-stress problem in Finn's left foot ruled him out on the eve of the first Test against Pakistan, and he flew home on crutches six weeks ago.
Wood then had to miss the last Test in Sharjah with a recurrence of the chronic impingement in his ankle.
It is unclear as yet whether he will need surgery this winter, or merely an extended rest, to ready him for another big year ahead.
In any case, the unavailability of the two seamers has left the selectors to ponder who should come in to complement frontline pair James Anderson and Stuart Broad in a country where pace will be a key weapon.
Chris Woakes, who played the last of his four Tests to date 15 months ago, has done his case no harm by taking four wickets in each of two one-day international wins over Pakistan in the past week.
Should the 26-year-old get the nod, it will be a reversal of fortune after he lost his place initially not through form but the same occupational hazard of injury.
"Whenever there is a squad announcement coming up, it is always good to be in decent form and taking wickets ... because the selectors are always watching," he said.
"I've had a taste of Test cricket and would obviously love to play some more."
Woakes will be up against Liam Plunkett, Chris Jordan and the untried left-arm variation of Mark Footitt for a seat on the plane south.
The selectors have a couple of other tight calls to make - whether they will again need Adil Rashid as a second spinner, and if cover is needed for the problem opening position.
The answer will probably be yes to both, with Rashid's Yorkshire team-mates Adam Lyth and Gary Ballance possibly in the frame for a return.
Possible England Test squad (v South Africa): AN Cook (Captain), AD Hales, IR Bell, JE Root, JWA Taylor, BA Stokes, JM Bairstow (wkt), MM Ali, SCJ Broad, LE Plunkett, JM Anderson, CR Woakes, JC Buttler, MA Footitt, AU Rashid, A Lyth, GS Ballance.
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