England pace bowler James Anderson will miss the final two Tests in South Africa after suffering a rib injury during their dramatic victory in Cape Town.
Anderson sustained the problem on the final day of the second Test and MRI scans on Wednesday confirmed he won’t be back in action until after the current tour.
It is a bitter blow for the 37-year-old, who was just two games into his comeback following the calf injury he endured in last summer’s Ashes series.
Anderson, England’s record Test wicket taker, spent almost five months working back to full fitness and showed signs of being back to his best with seven wickets in England’s series-levelling 189-run win.
But he was in visible discomfort on the final day, clutching his side at times and grimacing through two painful overs after tea.
“James Anderson has been ruled out of the remainder of the Test series against South Africa after sustaining a left rib injury in England’s second Test victory at Newlands,” an ECB statement said.
“Anderson felt tightness and discomfort at the end of the morning session on day five and was only able to bowl eight overs during the day. He will return to the UK in the next few days.”
Anderson tweeted: “Frustrating to be missing the rest of this series with a broken rib but hopefully will be healed in a few weeks! Will be supporting the boys from home.”
Anderson’s tally of 584 Test scalps makes him the most prolific seamer in Test history, while his appearance in the Boxing Day Test at Centurion saw him become just the ninth man to win 150 Test caps.
England were already giving consideration to sparing Anderson a thankless job on the spin-friendly pitches during their forthcoming tour of Sri Lanka.
But the issue has been taken out of the selectors’ hands, with a bone-related injury likely to require around two months of recovery work.
With that in mind, Anderson may now focus on getting ready for the English season, with a view to becoming just the fourth man in history to take 600 Test wickets after Muttiah Muralitharan, Shane Warne and Anil Kumble.
Somerset seamer Craig Overton will remain with the group having originally arrived as illness cover, but England should also have pace duo Jofra Archer and Mark Wood back in contention for next week’s third Test at Port Elizabeth.