England levelled up the Test series with South Africa in Cape Town just over a week ago and after the two sides have had a few days to reflect on things, they meet again in the third Test which begins in Port Elizabeth on Thursday.
We are all set up for an excellent couple of matches to round off the series, with both sides going into this match knowing that whoever wins it will not be able to lose overall. Lose here and the best that is available in Johannesburg next week is a share of the spoils.
After dominating the opening match of the series, South Africa were dominated in the second game. Although they threatened to put up a heroic backs against the ball shutout on the final day in Cape Town, they never truly looked like avoiding defeat and so the rest probably came at a good time for them. It allowed them to take stock of what they did right in the first game and didn’t do so well in the second one, and gear themselves up for another big effort.
The simple thing is that they batted well in Centurion and until the final innings when the game was probably gone they didn’t do that at Cape Town. They were also found wanting a little with the ball in Cape Town, although it is probably fair to highlight that conditions did go against them. Both matches have been dominated by the team batting first so far in the series so winning the toss could go a long way to helping.
You have to give a lot of credit to England for the way they bounced back from a disappointing showing in the first Test to level the series. To be fair that was history repeating itself because all too often in recent times they lose the first match overseas only to find their feet and come good again. Having done that in Cape Town, they will now be confident of pressing on and winning the series from this position.
If that is going to happen they need to reproduce the batting performance of the second innings at Newlands. They were measured early on, saw off the new ball, someone got to 100 and set the game up for their stroke players to put the time back into the game to allow them to dominate. It was brilliant Test cricket and showed what England can do, but unfortunately what they do all too inconsistently.
South Africa are expected to make one change to their ranks for this match with the largely ineffective Dwayne Pretorius making way for Dane Paterson. Should that change be confirmed it would be a debut for the seam bowler.
England will be forced into one change for this match with Jimmy Anderson back in England after being ruled out of the rest of the series with a rib injury. They have not confirmed their side but the strong whispers are that Mark Wood will come in for the Lancashire veteran.
St George’s Park
There have been 30 previous Test matches on this ground. It isn’t the ground where South Africa have their best record either it has to be said. They only have 13 wins to 12 defeats with five matches finishing in a draw. England have a fantastic record at this venue. They have competed in nine Test matches at Port Elizabeth and have only lost one of them. They have won five and drawn three of the other eight so if the English players look at history they will like what they see.
Historically this was a high scoring ground. The pitch here is usually quite slow to make batting easier although run rates are able to be controlled. More recently though 400 scores have been harder to come by. That is more a change in Test match batting rather than the pitch though. We saw in the recent Mzansi Super League that there isn’t a huge amount for the bowlers in this wicket.
I’ll go with a couple of bets for this match with the first of them coming in Ben Stokes’ performance. I nearly fell off my seat when I saw the line for his performance is just 115.5pts because I expect him to have that covered and some here. He comes into this match off the back of a showing which saw him pick up 239pts and he just has so many scoring options that I don’t see how he doesn’t make it to 116pts. He is arguably England’s best batsman and in good form with the bat, he bowled England to victory in Cape Town and he’s a lethal fielder. Add his score up at the end of this match and I would be amazed if it doesn’t go past 115.5pts.
Vernon Philander is a much better batsman than the 66/1 on him top scoring in the first innings of this match. He already has a 30 and a 40 in the series – the latter five short of being the leading score so if England get in and make full use of the new ball then Philander would have every chance of delivering a score that could challenge the top score. England generally are terrible at bowling out the lower order and with an extra player to come after Philander in this match that should in theory give him more chance of getting a score. I’ll pay to see how he goes at this price.
Back B.Stokes’ Performance – Over 115.5pts for a 5/10 stake at 1.80 with 888sport
Back V.Philander Top South Africa 1st Inns Batsman for a 1/10 stake at 67.00 with Betfair
Back him here: