We take a look at the third Test between England and South Africa set to get under way on 27 July at the Oval.
The Proteas will be brimming with confidence following their comprehensive 340-run win over the English at Fortress Trent Bridge.
The sides will now head to the Oval for the third of the four matches with Faf du Plessis and his raiders looking to go one up in the series.
England vs South Africa | Thu 27 July – Monday 31 July | The Kia Oval, London | England
To Win Match
England 11/10 | Draw 3/1 | South Africa 37/20
The English press is an absolute killer. Joe Root went from hero to zero in their eyes in the space of a few days. Having dominated the South African bowling attack at Lord’s in the first Test to floundering when the going got a bit tougher in the second match at Trent Bridge.
Let’s be honest, it was never going to be easy taking up a leadership role in a side that contains the likes of Stuart Broad, James Anderson and Alistair Cook. That said, there are more than a few punters and pundits alike who have questioned the selection of Root’s close Yorkshire friend, Gary Ballance’s inclusion in the side.
Ballance has always struggled at the highest level while continuously churning out good performances at First Class level. That’s enough on Ballance, however, as he’s injured and won’t partake in the remainder of the series.
Keaton Jennings is another one who has battled in this series. There are plenty over in England who have been calling for Jennings to be replaced by Haseeb Hameed. Hameed was perhaps unlucky to miss out on selection for the series. That said, his recent form for Lancashire has been pretty average.
Surry’s Mark Stoneman has been added to the squad for the third Test along with Dawid Malan. If Jennings is to be dropped, Stoneman is likely to be his replacement. While Malan is a good player, Stoneman is definitely seen as more of a long-format player than Malan who has carved a name for himself in T20 cricket.
Whatever happens, Root’s captaincy will be under the microscope come Thursday. He needs to show a more decisive streak when it comes to things like reviews instead of looking around the cordon for assistance like a deer in the headlights. It’s little things like this that he needs to take control of to get the press and fans off his back. It won’t be easy at the Oval, though, with a settled South African side looking to twist the dagger they stuck into England’s heart last week.
This is a particularly happy hunting ground for some of the senior South African players. This was after all, the ground where Hashim Amla immortalised his legacy with a masterful 311* as he and Jacques Kallis put the English bowling to the sword in the glorious London sunshine.
The senior South African batsmen will be looking to draw inspiration from the class of 2012. While the batting display in the second Test was excellent, I’m just worried that none of our batsmen have managed to put in a properly big score in the series. In fact, not one South African batsman has managed a century in the series thus far – that is something that needs to change.
One of du Plessis, Amla and Elgar will need to anchor the innings. Quinton de Kock has been solid enough in the series while Russel Domingo will be looking for more from Temba Bavuma who played well in the first Test but struggled in the second, giving his wicket away too cheaply.
I – along with many other South Africans – would love to see Aiden Markram crack the nod in this Test in place of Heino Kuhn, who has battled for runs thus far. Du Plessis and Domingo need to start looking long term, and Markram along with de Kock, Rabada, Ngidi, Maharaj, Bavuma as well as Phehlukwayo are all very much central to South Africa’s long term plans and need to be blooded as soon as possible.
Bowling wise, the South Africans will welcome back Kagiso Rabada, who will slot back into the side in the place of Duane Olivier, who simply didn’t look like a Test level bowler at Trent Bridge. Rabada will form part of a four-pronged pace attack along with Chris Morris, Vernon Philander and Morne Morkel.
Keshav Maharaj will no doubt be looking forward to playing at the Oval, where the spinners traditionally get a bit more assistance. Having said that, the wicket was looking very, very green two days out from the Test. Philander will no doubt be licking his lips at the prospect of bowling a wicket resembling Kingsmead in days gone by.
All in all, the South Africans are in a very good space at the moment. They dominated from the first session to the last at Trent Bridge, a ground that England traditionally do very well at. With Rabada back in the side to boost the bowling stocks, Faf will target nothing less than a victory at the Oval this week.
Verdict: South Africa 37/20
This is a gift of a price in my opinion. The South Africans have all of the momentum going into the third Test and welcome back the considerable talent of Kagiso Rabada. Back Faf and the Proteas to come out on top at the Oval this week.
Value Bet: Hashim Amla to top score for South Africa (first innings) 3/1
Hash has always enjoyed playing in England and will look to be the cement that holds the South African’s innings together. He’ll have fond memories of this ground having butchered the English attack in 2012 on his way to a career best 311* – back him to put in another big performance and top score here at 3/1.