Expecting Steven Finn to return soon - Alastair Cook
Finn sustained a foot injury during England's second practice game against Pakistan A in the recently concluded tour of United Arab Emirates.
Chris Jordan replaced Finn in the Test series while the selectors named Liam Plunkett as the replacement for the 26-year-old in the limited overs leg of the UAE tour against Pakistan.
After failing to make satisfactory progress, Finn was omitted from the 16-man England squad for the tour of South Africa.
Even though Cook revealed that Finn might not be fit enough for the first Test against South Africa, he is hoping the lanky fast bowler might join the squad at some stage during the tour.
"I don't think he is going to be ready to bowl in the first Test quite yet," said Cook before leaving England for the tour.
"But Steven has made big strides over the last couple of weeks.
“He is probably a couple of weeks ahead of where we thought he would be, so that is really encouraging for him.
"I think he'll join us sooner rather than later."
Ever since the retirement of Andrew Strauss, England have struggled to find a reliable player at the top of the order to partner Cook with Moeen Ali being the latest to get a chance to open the innings.
In the three Tests against Pakistan, Ali managed to score just 84 runs at an average of 14 and a highest score of 35.
Among the England squad that toured UAE was also Alex Hales, who failed to get a chance during the Tests, but made a significant impact in the limited overs series, where he went on to notch his maiden One-Day International century.
Singling out his destructive ability as his biggest strength, Cook confirmed it will be Hales, who is likely to open for England in the first Test against South Africa.
"From where Trevor (Bayliss, coach) spoke at the end of Pakistan, he will certainly be given the first opportunity at it," said Cook.
"You cannot guarantee anyone a first Test place when you are sitting here in a Heathrow hotel but he has got a great opportunity.
"We know, when he is in form, as you have seen in County Championship cricket, he can get on a run, and be very destructive.
"I think over the last six months or so, in international cricket, he would have experienced a lot, from not scoring too many runs in the Australia one-day series to really bouncing back (against Pakistan).
"It is going to be an exciting time for him."
England's tour of South Africa comprises of four Tests, five ODIs and two Twenty20 Internationals which will be played between 26th December 2015 and 21st February 2016.
© Cricket World 2015