South Africa v England 4th Test Preview: Marching Root brigade set to take down gasping Proteas
England may be out on a hunt to win an overseas Test series since the one they did in Sri Lanka, but there's a lot more riding on the match for South Africa.
Venue - The Wanderers Stadium, Johannesburg
Start time - 08:00 AM GMT | 10:00 AM LOCAL
Head to Head record in Test series - England: 20 South Africa: 9 Drawn: 5
Weather - Thunderstorm, 22°C, Precipitation: 90%, Humidity: 75%, Wind: 19 km/h
Scattered showers are expected for the first three days of the Test.
As the ICC World Test Championship table for the 2019-21 cycle currently stands, England have climbed to the third spot with 116 points behind India and Australia. Although there is still a huge valley between the top two and the remaining teams, a win in this match would further consolidate England's position on the third spot.
On the other hand, South Africa are languishing at the seventh spot with only 30 points. A loss here would almost kill their chances of finishing in the top 3. Other than that, it's Faf du Plessis' last Test on home soil and Vernon Philander's farewell Test. Hence, a win for South Africa is far more crucial than that for England.
In the absence of their bowling leader Kagiso Rabada and meek spirits, it would be a very tough task for South Africa to counter the visitors.
The imposing Bullring
Wanderers is ready to host England and South Africa for the last match of the series. The ground is known for its pace and bounce which is why there is always have a temptation to go in with an all pace attack.
The last Test that South Africa played at this venue was in January 2019 against Pakistan which they won. At that time, the Proteas went in with four pacers in Dale Steyn, Vernon Philander, Kagiso Rabada and Duanne Olivier.
For England, Stuart Broad has had good outings at this venue and claimed a 6-fer here, four years ago.
Archer to replace Bess or Wood?
England finally seem to have got their combination right and they would not like to change much. But, it is too tempting an option to leave Jofra Archer out after he looked somewhere close to his best on Wednesday.
In a net session, Archer appeared to have recovered from his elbow injury and bowled with serious steam. If he is able to back it up on Thursday as well, a day before the fourth Test begins, he should make it to the playing XI.
In whose place does Archer come in?
Dom Bess? After his best-ever Test bowling figures of 5-51 in the first essay in Port Elizabeth, it would really be a harsh call. However, the pitch in Wanderers suits the pacers and England can also consider going with the five-prong pace attack. They would now know that they have someone in Joe Root who can hold one end up, if need be.
In an ideal world, England would like to play both Mark Wood and Jofra archer. It would really be a great spectacle to watch them bowl 95 mph thunderbolts in tandem, isn't it?
The news from the camp though is that Wood is a bit sore after the last Test. Although he will have a fitness test on Thursday, it is unlikely for him to be included. It is a sensible option as well given that he is returning to international cricket after a long break and with England hoping to do the job even without him, he can have a match off.
Three changes for South Africa
After having recalled four of the five players earlier released, South Africa currently have the options of Dwaine Pretorius, Temba Bavuma, Beuran Hendricks, Keegan Petersen and Andile Phehlukwayo in Johannesburg.
With a one-match ban from the ICC, the leader of the South African bowling attack, Kagiso Rabada will not be available for this game. Beuran Hendricks, who picked up a 3-wicket haul in the first innings of a List A game between Lions and Dolphins is likely to take his place.
Dane Patterson, who was picked in place of Dwaine Pretorius in the Port Elizabeth Test, could not make an impression and picked only one wicket from his 24 overs. Pretorius is likely to replace him in this game.
Temba Bavuma, after scoring a career best of 180 against Dolphins in first-class cricket, is all but a certainty to be included in the playing XI. One of Zubayr Hamza or Rassie van der Dussen will have to sit out.
Keeping the transformation target in mind, all-rounder Andile Phehlukwayo also has an outside chance, with his ability to nibble the ball around.
Here's a look at the predicted playing XI of both teams:
South Africa - Pieter Malan, Dean Elgar, Zubayr Hamza/Rassie van der Dussen, Faf du Plessis(c) Temba Bavuma, Quinton de Kock(wk), Vernon Philander, Keshav Maharaj, Dwaine Pretorius, Beuran Hendricks, Anrich Nortje
England - Dominic Sibley, Zak Crawley, Joe Denly, Joe Root(c), Ben Stokes, Ollie Pope, Jos Buttler(wk), Sam Curran, Dom Bess, Stuart Broad, Jofra Archer
This is where you can catch all the live action across the globe:
South Africa: SuperSport
UK: Sky Sports Cricket
India & Subcontinent: Sony Network, streaming on Sony Liv
Singapore: Star Cricket (TBC)
Middle East and North Africa (MENA): OSN Sports Cricket HD
©Cricket World 2020