England vs South Africa 3rd Test Preview: After long break, refreshed sides eye series win
For all the good work that South Africa did in the series opener, they made a couple of tactical blunders in the second Test match at Manchester and paid the price.
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After a lengthy break, both teams will be recharged as they go into the decider with the series tied at 1-1. Much like the white-ball leg where England dominated in one game and South Africa in the other, it is very difficult to predict which way this match and as a result the series will go.
South Africa's missed opportunity
South Africa had a great opportunity to keep England under the pump after their sensational victory at Lord's. However, they dropped Marco Jansen who was impressive in the series opener and can also be a handful with the bat.
The Proteas brought in Simon Harmer as the second spinner to Keshav Maharaj with the hope that the pitch would turn square from day 3 onwards due to its dry nature. However, it turned out to be far from reality.
The South African batters struggled against the brilliance of England's four man pace bowling attack with each of James Anderson, Ollie Robinson, Stuart Broad and Ben Stokes playing their part. It did not help that the visitors opted to bat first after winning the toss.
Rickelton in, can Zondo make the cut?
South Africa are likely to make a few changes to their playing XI for this match. Rassie van der Dussen broke his finger in Manchester and was anyway playing for a spot having not done anything substantial in his last 13 innings and Ryan Rickelton is set to make the side in his place.
Aiden Markram also hasn't looked the part in the last few games and RVD's injury might have given him another game. However, South Africa can still bring in Khaya Zondo in place of Markram.
Brook to debut
In the bowling department, Simon Harmer is almost certain to be benched with Marco Jansen coming back into the side.
England will have to make one forced change in form of debutant Harry Brook after the freak injury to Jonny Bairstow as the flamboyant right hander slipped during a game of golf to be ruled out not only from this series but the T20 World Cup as well.
Stokes' conventional route
Ben Stokes finally decided to play in a somewhat conventional manner in Manchester and reaped the rewards, scoring his first century since taking over Test captaincy. Stokes looked right on the money during his 163-ball 103 knock, laced with 6 fours and 3 sixes, which left many wondering why he doesn't play like this more often.
Stokes hadn't been delivering particularly well as an all rounder of late but showed his class with both bat and ball in the second Test to finish as the Player of the Match for his 4 crucial wickets and a century in the game. Perhaps, this will present a blueprint for him to tone down the ultra aggressive approach and pick and choose his moments.
He does have the licence to go hell for leather when he senses the opportunity but also needs to respect the ebbs and flows of the game, both as captain and as a batter.
The Manchester loss must have stung South Africa badly and while their varied bowling attack has shown their capability of pinning any team down on the mat when the conditions are in their favour, it is the South African batters who need to step up. If they are able to score anything in the vicinity of 400, they do have the bowlers to pull off a historic series victory.
Predicted Playing XIs
England - Alex Lees, Zak Crawley, Ollie Pope, Joe Root, Harry Brook, Ben Stokes (c), Ben Foakes (wk), Stuart Broad, Ollie Robinson, Jack Leach, James Anderson
South Africa - Dean Elgar (c), Sarel Erwee, Keegan Petersen, Aiden Markram/Khaya Zondo, Ryan Rickelton, Kyle Verreynne (wk), Marco Jansen, Keshav Maharaj, Kagiso Rabada, Anrich Nortje, Lungi Ngidi
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