England and South Africa will meet in the third and final Test at the Oval, with the match beginning on Thursday, September 8th. Play is scheduled to begin at 11 am local time.
The current state of play
The series is currently delicately balanced at one match apiece. England slumped to an innings defeat in three days in the First Test at Lord’s, but bounced back with an equally convincing victory at Old Trafford in the Second Test.
World Test Championship standings
That defeat negatively impacted South Africa’s standings in the World Test Championship. They have now fallen below Australia, and, although they are still on track to make the Lord’s final next year, another loss in this match could be detrimental to their chances.
England’s hopes evaporated long ago.
History favours the English
Recent history favours the English because they have won the last three series – home and way – against the South Africans. But, if the visitors are looking for hope, it can perhaps be drawn from the fact that they won on their tour in England in 2012, and, again, four years previous to that.
Although England won the match at Old Trafford without Joe Root making a half century for the first time in two years, he remains an essential element of the batting line-up, and given the loss of Jonny Bairstow, and the continued fragility of the opening pair, another good innings may be required from him.
He may be 40, but Anderson can still perform at the top level, and, in front of his home fans in Manchester, he went past Glenn McGrath’s record of wickets by a pace bowler in international cricket. Another good performance at the Oval should ensure a place on England’s winter tours and push his final retirement a little back further into the future.
Nortje has consistently bowled at over 90 mph during this series and, although he can be wasteful sometimes, he represents a potent threat to the English batters as they discovered to their cost at Lord’s. If the conditions in South London favour him, then he could prove to be the difference between the two sides.
The South African captain has a big responsibility on his hands going into this match, not only to lead his team, but also to set the tone with the bat. With van der Dussen ruled out, he has to work with an inexperienced batting line-up, so he will need to step up and score some runs.
Traditionally the Oval is regarded as one of the best batting strips in England. It is flat and offers even bounce off the surface, meaning that batters can trust their strokes. It also has a fast outfield, which means that the ball tends to race to the boundary.
The weather is forecast to be good for most of the match with the exception of Saturday when there is a chance of showers. Overcast conditions in the morning could help swing bowlers.
Although England named an unchanged squad for the Third Test, they have been forced to make a change after Jonny Bairstow fractured his leg in a bizarre accident on a golf course that has also ruled him out of the World Cup in Australia. His absence could give another Yorkshire player, Harry Brook, the chance to make his test match debut.
South Africa have also been dealt an injury blow, with Rassie van der Dussen forced to fly home early with the fractured finger he sustained whilst fielding at Old Trafford. All-rounder Wiaan Mulder, who was already in England playing county cricket for Leicestershire, will take his place.
There have also been suggestions that Kyle Verreynne could take the place of Aiden Markram for this match, with captain Dean Elgar already hinting at some changes to his batting line-up.
Given the topsy-turvy nature of the series so far, it is difficult to make any firm predictions, although England, logically, must start as favourites. They have the advantage of home conditions and touring sides do not get the same lift on other British grounds as they do at Lord’s.
Both teams have had to make changes for this match and it may come down to how the replacements stand up to the pressure.
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