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South Africa vs England, 3rd Test Match Prediction & Betting Tips
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After South Africa dominated the first Test and then England responded in kind in the second, it's anyone's guess what might happen in the third at St George's Park in Port Elizabeth beginning on Thursday (January 16). That has so often been the way of things between these two teams who are locked on 16 wins apiece since South Africa's readmission to international game. It is teed up perfectly: two flawed teams in desperate need of a series victory after a difficult 12 months, tied at one-one, in a series that has already seen a fair amount of drama. This match, the 50th between the two sides since readmission, should be a cracking game.
Neither team can take anything for granted. England have so often veered from the sublime to the ridiculous in the space of a day's play, let alone throughout a series, that they will certainly not be overconfident. James Anderson's absence with a rib injury sustained in the victory at Newlands should also contribute to keeping their feet firmly on the ground. His five wickets in South Africa's first innings at Cape Town was a reminder of the continued excellence which England are so fortunate to have. He leaves big boots to fill for the remainder of the series.
The second Test victory was secured thanks to a number of important contributions from England's younger players. How they back up at Port Elizabeth will be an interesting sub-plot to the game. Dom Sibley's maiden Test hundred will surely mean South Africa have considered a new plan to attack him. Ollie Pope's first innings half-century will have led to similar analysis. Will Dom Bess be allowed to settle as much as he was allowed to in Cape Town where he went at less than two runs an over across the game? An important part of success at Test level is the ability to adapt and react to different challenges. That is the task ahead of England's young guns.
Despite their victory at Centurion, South Africa have also been on the poorer side of inconsistent in Test cricket of late. Their task is to prove that defeat in Cape Town was not a reversion to the mean but a blip on the road to improvement begun at SuperSport Park. Regardless, the second Test defeat means the honeymoon period for the new coaching structure, led by Mark Boucher, is well and truly over. The pressure is on to avoid a third straight Test series defeat.
There are also concerns over the form of captain, Faf du Plessis, who has not scored a Test century since January last year and played poor shot in the second innings of the previous Test as South Africa attempted to save the game. As well as his lack of runs, du Plessis also has off-field concerns about the state of transformation on his plate following the dropping of Temba Bavuma, the official vice-captain, for poor form. His continued absence means South Africa will be short of their transformation targets of fielding six players of colour, of which two must be black African.
Despite these issues, it was not that long ago, that South Africa delivered a comprehensive victory in the opening game of the series. They certainly have the bowling arsenal to be able to force the pace against an England batting line-up that, although beginning to look sturdier, still has questions to answer and enough talent and grit in the batting line-up to prosper against an attack short of Anderson. South Africa, like England, are flawed but dangerous. Given how evenly the series is poised, that adds up to a fascinating combination.
When: Thursday January 16, 2020. 10:00am Local Time
Where: St George's Park, Port Elizabeth
What to expect: The pitch stayed under cover for much of Tuesday, largely to shield it from the intense heat and humidity of the past few days. The Port Elizabeth groundsman says it's still pretty furry and he will decide on Wednesday how much grass to take off. An easterly wind should blow on the first day, changing to westerly on Friday. As such, bowling first might be an attractive option. Unfortunately, rain is forecast for Saturday and Sunday.
South Africa: At a ground where reverse swing is often a factor, it's no surprise that South Africa are pondering bowling options. They are trying to find a way to smuggle niggly seamer Dane Paterson, uncapped but with four ODIs and eight T20s to his credit, into the XI. That could mean a rest for Dwaine Pretorius, Vernon Philander or even Keshav Maharaj - although the latter seems least likely to sit out given this is the country's slowest pitch.
Possible XI: Dean Elgar, Pieter Malan, Zubayr Hamza, Faf du Plessis, Rassie van der Dussen, Quinton de Kock, Vernon Philander, Dane Paterson, Keshav Maharaj, Kagiso Rabada, Anrich Nortje
England: The tourists have one enforced change following the rib injury James Anderson's suffered at Newlands. Although Joe Root would not be drawn on who might replace him, Mark Wood, fully fit after a period of injury, may get the nod ahead of Jofra Archer, who still might not have recovered from an elbow injury, and Chris Woakes. Wood's pace and ability to generate reverse swing will certainly make him difficult to ignore.
Possible XI: Zak Crawley, Dom Sibley, Joe Denly, Joe Root, Ben Stokes, Ollie Pope, Jos Buttler, Sam Curran, Dom Bess, Mark Wood, Stuart Broad
"We're considering the possibility of looking at someone like 'Pato' [Dane Paterson]. For who would be a big question we would need to answer. [It's about] the nature of the ground, the conditions here, the style of bowling that can work at St George's. But if you do that you are going in with one less batter or without a spinner, and there's merit in both. You need a spinner at St George's and you also need a long batting line-up. So it's not an easy decision." - Faf du Plessis
"I think with a young group of players the challenge is always, once you've performed very well and you've won a game, it's then can you then back that up. I'm very confident that we can but it's a good challenge for us." - Joe Root