South Africa cricket captain AB de Villiers thinks some of England's senior fast bowlers have lost speed through their careers. The 31-year-old star is a long-time adversary of the likes of James Anderson and Stuart Broad, and has suggested England's new-ball pairing do not boast the same type of threat they once did.
Broad bowled a match-defining spell of 6-17 in the third Test match at the Wanderers on 16 January, but Anderson struggled to create chances at the other end. De Villiers inferred that 33-year-old Anderson, in particular, might not be the same bowler he was during his younger years.
"There's no hiding from the fact England seem to know what they are doing, they understand their roles really well, but there's also no doubt in my mind there are weaknesses there," De Villiers explained, according to the Daily Mail.
"We have exposed some of them over the last few weeks but not enough. Their bowling is experienced but some of the guys have lost some pace over the years, but they are smart and skilled so there are other angles to cover."
De Villiers also cast doubts over the England batting line-up, saying there are weaknesses within the team that South Africa will look to exploit when the fourth and final Test match begins on Friday 22 January. "The batting is not 100% best-in-the-world material, there are areas we can expose if we start well with the ball, build up dots. We can find cracks. They are not unbeatable, there's no doubt," he said.
However, England captain Alastair Cook has backed Anderson – the country's all-time leading wicket-taker in Test cricket – to bounce back in style against the Proteas. "I think he (De Villiers) is obviously trying to wind everything up to make it competitive," said Cook. "I'm sure if Jimmy reads that he'll have a word to say. Some of his speeds have been pretty good in this series and he hasn't quite had the luck, certainly in the last game."
Meanwhile, England will be without the injured Steven Finn for the game at Centurion, with one of Chris Woakes, Chris Jordan and the uncapped Mark Footitt set to replace him.
"It is quite a big decision to make. All three are different options and all three desperate for it to be them who gets selected," said Cook of the selection quandary. "When you're weighing up a lot of options you can overcomplicate it, so I think it's just a case of playing our best side."