S Africa to take on England in series decider from 16th

Africa

S Africa to take on England in series decider from 16th

PORT ELIZABETH: South Africa and England meet in the third Test, starting at St George’s Park from Thursday (January 16) with the series delicately poised at 1-1.

South Africa won the opening Test by 107 runs at Centurion while England claimed the second by 189 runs in Cape Town. AFP Sport looks at five talking points ahead of a pivotal encounter in the four-match World Test Championship series. St George’s Park has long been regarded as having one of the slowest, lowest pitches among South Africa’s Test venues. In recent times, however, the ground staff have tried to get more pace from the surface and have usually left a fair covering of grass to offer some help to fast bowlers.

Two seasons ago Kagiso Rabada was man of the match in an ill-tempered Test against Australia, with the fast bowler picking up ten wickets as well as a Test ban, later overturned on appeal, for bumping shoulders with Steve Smith.

Last season, though, South Africa suffered one of their most embarrassing home defeats when they went down to Sri Lanka, who completed a 2-0 series win. England last played a Test in Port Elizabeth in 2004/05 when Michael Vaughan’s team won the first Test on the way to a 2-1 series victory. Both teams have relatively inexperienced, potentially vulnerable batting line-ups. There were question marks about England’s top three but with the exception of the first innings of first Test they have blunted South Africa’s new-ball threat with minimal damage.

It was a blow for England when Rory Burns, who made 84 in the second innings of the first Test, was injured ahead of the second match but Dom Sibley stepped up with an important century while Joe Denly has been solid at number three without going on to a big score.

South Africa’s problems have been at three and four, where Zubayr Hamza and captain Faf du Plessis have yet to have a major impact on the series. South Africa are short on destructive flair in their batting line-up, placing much reliance on wicketkeeper Quinton de Kock to take the fight to the English bowlers. Ben Stokes had an immense influence on the second Test at Newlands, with the impact of his batting and bowling exceeding his statistics.

South Africa’s all-rounders, Vernon Philander and Dwaine Pretorius, are less flamboyant, especially with the bat, although Philander’s bowling has the potential to be pivotal if he gets some help from the pitch. Notwithstanding Rabada’s feats in 2017/18, spin bowlers generally expect some help from the St George’s Park pitch. But neither side has a likely slow-bowling match-winner. Keshav Maharaj bowled tidily for South Africa in the first innings at Newlands but figures of two for 160 in the second innings revived memories of a poor tour of India towards the end of last year when his six wickets cost 85.66 runs each.

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