The final match of a series spanning all three formats between South Africa and England is upon us. England lead the Test series 2-1, having beaten South Africa by 239 runs in the third Test after a dominant performance which saw Moeen Ali take a hat-trick, and the team create a record for causing the most golden ducks in an innings in a Test match.
Of all of South Africa’s problems, you would not expect one of them to be that the batsmen don’t actually use their bats. The Proteas were outclassed in the third Test on all fronts and will want to end the series on a high, avoiding even a draw, an unlikely outcome in any case as they look to level the series 2-2.
Alastair Cook, Keaton Jennings, Tom Westley, Joe Root (capt), Dawid Malan, Ben Stokes, Jonny Bairstow (wk), Moeen Ali, Toby Roland-Jones, Stuart Broad, James Anderson, Liam Dawson, Steven Finn
Dean Elgar, Heino Kuhn, Hashim Amla, Quinton de Kock(wk), Faf du Plessis (capt), Temba Bavuma, Vernon Philander, Chris Morris, Keshav Maharaj, Morne Morkel, Duanne Olivier, Andile Phehlukwayo, Kagiso Rabada, Aiden Markram, Theunis de Bruyn.
Where the Teams Stand
England has reaped the rewards of their consistency. Players like Stokes, Ali, Roland-Jones, Cook, and others have put up their hands and shouldered responsibility for the team’s fortune, ensuring that they perform as a collective unit. With the exception of Keaton Jennings, who may be dropped for the fourth test in favour of Liam Dawson, all of their batsmen have looked in great touch, with at least one of them usually converting a start into a big innings.
Dawid Malan might miss out as well, instead of Jennings, after a poor showing in the third Test. He scored just and and ten in his two chances to bat. The other two debutants had a good Test, with Roland-Jones ripping the Proteas’ top order apart, taking all the top four in the first innings. Tom Westley scored a handy 59 in the second innings, making a valuable contribution.
Steven Finn replaced Mark Wood for the fourth Test after the latter injured himself. Bayliss’ reluctance to go with eight batsmen may see Finn drafted into the team to give them an extra seaming option alongside Anderson, Broad, Roland-Jones, and Stokes. Dawson has been average in the series so far, and given that England already have an outstanding spinner on the team, it will be hard to justify including him in the eleven.
Ali’s consistency with the ball has been a key factor behind England’s success in this series, and they will hope he can keep up the good work. Another point worth mentioning is Root’s judicious use of the decision review system, proving that DRS can be a useful weapon if used correctly. Sri Lanka, take note.
All the jokes about the Proteas’ ball-leaving woes aside, Du Plessis will have his work cut out for him in the fourth Test. Opener Heino Kuhn has received support from the team management despite his awful string of performances in the series. The encouragement may not be a bad idea from a long-term perspective aiming to actualize his talent, but South Africa need results right now, and it may not be the wisest thing to do given that Markram has been warming the benches so far.
There has been a lot of talk surrounding Chris Morris being an ‘X-factor’, a tag he will want to prove wrong soon given his quality in the limited overs formats. On his day, he can win you a match with either or both, bat and ball. South Africa’s bowling has been effective for the most part, boasting some of the best pacers in world cricket, and will be the deciding factor regarding how the Proteas perform overall in the upcoming Test.
South Africa need to stop relying on their bowlers to save them from a top order collapse. One of their priorities this time around should be getting off to a good start with the bat, something that has been impossible thanks to Kuhn. When they play well, they can blow any team away, but when they don’t, they look ordinary at best. Their batting disappointed last time around, but England wouldn’t be expecting it to happen once again. Du Plessis will be looking to get his bat on ball more often than he did last time whereas players like Amla and De Kock will be ones to watch out for in the fourth Test.
South Africa’s volatility as a team makes it hard to predict if they will show up or not on any given day. Given their quality, England looks like a tough team to beat at home especially considering how well they’ve been playing. They should win the final test and clinch the series.
Who will claim the win in the fourth Test, England or South Africa? Let us know in the comments below.
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