South Africa vs England | Thursday 14 January | The Wanderers | 10:30
After the extraordinary events that unfolded at Newlands last week, South Africa and England will be holding their collective breath ahead of the third Test due to be held at the Wanderers in Johannesburg on Thursday.
The Proteas have to win the match if they are to stand any chance of winning the four-match Test series before the teams square up in the T20 Internationals and ODIs.
To Win Match
South Africa 14/10
The South Africans will be pleased with the performance they put in – particularly with the bat – in the second Test at Newlands last week. After their farcical showing in the Boxing Day Test in Durban, several senior players stepped up to the mark to put in match-saving performances. The most notable of these was Hashim Amla’s knock of 201 and from 477 balls. His third-wicket partnership with AB de Villiers – the man to whom he conceded the Test captaincy following the match – was worth 183 and gave the Proteas a glimmer of hope after losing Dean Elgar and Stiaan van Zyl inside 25 overs.
De Villiers and his old Affies schoolmate, Faf du Plessis came into a bit of form along with Amla, scoring 88 and 86 respectively. However, when Amla, du Plessis and Quinton de Kock all fell within four overs of one another, the responsibility of getting as close to England’s mammoth 629 first innings score would rest on the shoulders of Chris Morris and Temba Bavuma.
The two stepped up to the plate beautifully to lead their side to within two runs of England’s gargantuan first innings total. The biggest cheer of the Test would be reserved for Bavuma, who played tremendously well on his way to a maiden Test century – the first by a black South African.
Seemingly buoyed by the exploits of their batsmen, the South African bowlers put on a tremendous display with the ball during England’s second innings with Dan Piedt and Morris impressing the most. The Proteas selectors will be faced with a bit of a headache in the lead up to the third Test if Dale Steyn is fit.
Steyn, one of the best bowlers South Africa has ever produced, simply can’t be left out of the side. And with Morris bowling well and offering stability toward the bottom of the innings, either Rabada, Morkel or Piedt will face the axe. Personally, I’d leave Piedt out for the third Test. He’s bowled well thus far, but the deck at the Wanderers will offer him very little assistance. If the need for a spinner arises, Dean Elgar has proven over the last few months that he can be an effective weapon when it comes to keeping scoring down, even chipping in with a few wickets here and there.
Ben Stokes was the undoubted hero of the Newlands Test – his first innings knock of 258 off just 198 balls effectively meant that barring something spectacular, England would not lose the match. He was ably supported by Jonny Bairstow who would record his maiden Test century in front of rapturous English support in Cape Town.
Stokes was in imperious form, striking 11 sixes and 30 fours on his way 258. None of the South African bowlers were safe as the Durham all-rounder launched after a fairly tame start to his innings. He was particularly harsh on Morris and Kagiso Rabada who both returned first innings economy rates in excess of five.
Bairstow, although not as belligerent as Stokes, put in a magnificent first innings shift as he moved onto an outstanding 150 before the innings was declared by Alistair Cook. The English took to the Newlands playing surface buoyed by their earlier batting exploits, and they got off to the ideal start after Stiaan van Zyl was run out for four after sharp work from Nick Compton. Dean Elgar would follow him back to the dressing room for a well played 44 after he was dismissed by Stokes.
That’s about as good as it got for England, though. Their spectacular performance with the bat was comprehensively undone by some atrocious fielding. The English managed to grass nine catches – most of them simple enough chances – effectively ending their chances of winning the match. Frustrations boiled over after Bairstow dropped Bavuma in the 195th over of the South African innings. The England quick took a chunk out of the Newlands deck, kicking out in frustration. He was warned by umpire Aleem Dar before telling the Pakistani official to “just get on with the game.”
Amla would eventually declare the innings on 627-7, leaving the English opening pair Cook and Alex Hales to negotiate a tricky little six-over session before the end of play on day four. They would survive, only to perish early on day five. Cook felt for a Rabada delivery that he really should have left – caught behind by de Kock. Hales would perish an over later as he was spectacularly caught by Morris at second slip off the bowling of Morne Morkel.
They would go on to lose Joe Root, Compton, Stokes and James Taylor before Bairstow and Moeen Ali put to bed any fears of a shock defeat.
I don't think there will be any changes to the side which took to the field at Newlands. Alex Hales, the only player
Venue: The Wanderers
The 34, 000-seater Bullring will play host to the third and penultimate Test of England’s tour. Famed for its intimidating atmosphere, you can be sure there will be plenty of English fans packed into the historic old ground.
The deck will suit the South African pace attack down to the T. There will be plenty of pace and bounce throughout the five days, while the cracks that appear on day four and five can make batting difficult in the latter parts of the contest – although with so much rain about and relatively cool temperatures of late, they may not feature as prominently as they have in the past.
Verdict: Draw 2/1
If we manage to get a full five days’ play in Johannesburg, I’d back South Africa – who undoubtedly have their tails up at the minute – to get the job done against a shell-shocked English side. The forecast, however, looks a bit grim (at the time of publishing) with plenty of rain predicted to fall over Friday and Saturday. There simply won’t be enough time to achieve any result other than a draw if the weatherman has got it right.
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