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England v SA - 3rd Test Preview

England v SA - 3rd Test Preview
Tuesday,July 25,2017

England v South Africa, 3rd Test, The Oval, July 27-31

After a crushing victory in the first Test at Lord’s to kick start Joe Root’s reign as England captain, his side were well and truly brought back down to earth at Trent Bridge.


Despite Jimmy Anderson’s five wicket haul on his favourite stomping ground, a lower order half century from Vernon Philander helped South Africa fight back to make a respectable 335 in their first innings.


Another all too familiar batting collapse was the story once more for England in their first innings, as they lost their last seven wickets for just 62 runs, before being set an improbable 474 to go 2-0 up.


There was never any real chance of that happening, as Root’s men caved in for just 133, and a humiliating 340-run thrashing, their second heaviest defeat at home for 20 years. It was also the first time England had failed to bat out 100 overs in a Test match at home since 2009.


Will new faces help England’s batting worries?
England’s batting in Test cricket has been a real cause for concern over the past year or so. While there are world class performers like Alastair Cook, Joe Root, Ben Stokes and the consistent Jonny Bairstow, constant chopping and changing around those four has only led to inconsistent performances.


England have won just two of their previous ten Test matches, which has including some horrific batting collapses, perhaps none too much worse than the 7-62 in the first innings at Trent Bridge.


Many promising players have been brought it in recent times, including Alex Hales, Nick Compton, James Vince and Haseeb Hameed to name a few but have all been discarded after several poor performances. The same can be said of Gary Ballance, although a broken finger was the official reason he was omitted.


Despite sitting second in the runs scoring charts in Division One of the County Championship, Ballance has struggled each time he has made his way back into the side in the past year, and averages just 21 in this series.


One of, if not both, of Tom Westley and Dawid Malan are set to make their Test debuts, but hopefully unlike the previously mentioned newcomers, these two are allowed more time if the selectors rate them as batsmen for the long haul.


Essex’s Westley has been in fine form, with three centuries in his last six innings, including an unbeaten 106 for the Lions against South Africa in a tour match last month. He averages more than 53 in Division One this season and has been talked about as a fine prospect for a number of years now, and could well be ready to make the step up at the age of 28.


Malan has a consistent season average of 42 for Middlesex and has already made his England debut in T20s, smashing 78 against South Africa a month ago. While he has a bigger reputation in the one day format, he has plenty of experience in the four day game and certainly fits the mould of England’s current positive batting philosophy but might not be what they need right now.


Can South Africa build on Trent Bridge demolition?  
It was quite the turnaround for South Africa after their abject display at Lord’s. The return of captain Faf du Plessis made a notable difference in the field and with the bat, as the skipper added a vital 63 in the second innings en route to setting England that huge total. The win was South Africa’s fourth biggest in terms of runs in Test match cricket, and they certainly take with them some momentum heading into the Oval.


Unsurprisingly, their bowling attack has been strong throughout, with Philander leading the way with the new ball, creating pressure and being very hard to score off with his extremely consistent line and length.


He averages just under 19 with the ball in this series, but it’s his performances with the bat that have made the world of difference to an otherwise vulnerable batting line-up. He made 52 in the first innings at Lord’s to rescue South Africa from an even bigger first innings deficit which was eventually 97 while his 54 at Trent Bridge also saved South Africa from making a below par score.


He is the host’s top scorer so far with an average of 55 and gives his side the freedom to play with an extra bowler, with the ability to step up in the allrounder position of number seven.


Morne Morkel has been impressive with his ability to generate steep bounce, while Chris Morris also impressed after coming into the side at Nottingham, and is capable of bowling at 90 miles an hour plus on a consistent basis.


Keshav Maharaj has been a bonus with his left arm off spin taking 10 wickets, while Kagiso Rabada will be a huge addition after suspension ruled him out of the second Test.


The Oval is traditionally more of a batsmen friendly surface and a brittle middle-order needs to step up to the plate and back up the bowlers, on a pitch that could well be hard work for them.


Jump in the Pools
As usual, there’s £100 guaranteed in our £2 Fantasy Pick 5. Simply choose five players from different categories - a Top Order batsmen, a Batsman, an All Rounder, WicketKeeper & Bowler - to make up your team and if they scoop you the most points, you’ll win the biggest share of the prize pot. You must choose at least one player per team and again, your Banker - or captain - will score you double points so pick wisely.



In our list of Top Order batsmen to choose from, Hashim Amla again stands out, and has been consistent in the two Tests without making a typical Amla daddy hundred. Conditions at the Oval should help him achieve just that, and he has history of doing so, making a career best 311 there five years ago.


England’s potential debutants Malan and Westley, make it into our Batsmen category alongside Joe Root. As usual Root has been in fine touch, with a century and half century apiece. Westley is set to take Ballance’s position at number three and has been in excellent form as of late, but will he make the step up? Du Plessis is another to look out for in this category and perhaps a seventh Test century isn’t too far away for the South African captain.


Moeen Ali has been the standout All Rounder so far, averaging just under 35 with the bat and 15 with the ball, with his 14 wickets making him the top wicket taker in the series. He often gets his wickets after being targeted by the opposition batsmen, and has a knack of making it hard to score quickly off.


It’s usually hard work at the Oval for bowlers and that could well be the case once more. Philander has been outstanding with both bat and ball so should be considered strongly, while Anderson has looked good, averaging 17 with a best of 5-72.


We will also be running a Classic Quickie for the third Test, with 10 simple yes or no questions on how you see the action unfolding, and a daily Classic for days two, three, four and five.


And of course our new Challenges function is live, so if you’d rather set up a game just to play among mates, for whatever stake you fancy, just click on the pool and set your own parameters!



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