The third Test of the series between England and South Africa will get underway from tomorrow at Saint George's Park. The injury-laden touring party will miss the services of veteran swing bowler James Anderson and stylish opening batsman Rory Burns. Both have already headed back to home after encountering injuries.
Rory scored a valiant 84-run knock in the first Test before he got an untimely ankle injury during a practice football game ahead of the second Test and his replacement Zak Crawley is yet to thump a major milestone in this series.
Anderson's absence is a big blow given the fact that the seasoned campaigner plucked seven wickets by only giving away 63 runs in the last Test and he is most likely going to be replaced by Mark Wood who has been on the fringes since last one year. The express pacer can crank up the pace from a very short yet brisk run-up but he has been injury-prone in his career thus far.
Jofra Archer has recovered from his elbow injury but is unlikely to play owing to workload management concerns. Stuart Broad has been leading the pace battery in Anderson's absence and even though he had a lukewarm outing at Newlands, he has the dexterity to create panic in the opposition ranks especially when gets the reverse swing going.
Proteas coasted home in the first Test of the four-match series in Pretoria by 107 runs and following that England gave a fitting riposte and outwitted the hosts by 189 runs in Cape Town. The series hangs in balance and has been a riveting battle so far, poised to get even more exhilarating in the third Test.
Meanwhile, South Africa have been embroiled in administrative crisis in their board with no clarity over coaching and support staff appointments leading up to the tour and the abrupt change in personnel in the hierarchy have led to inconsistent policies and strained relations between Cricket South Africa and the South African Cricketers’ Association.
Graeme Smith assumed office as interim director just before this series and head coach Mark Boucher was appointed recently as well but Proteas have done well to keep their head in the game so far in the series.
Faf du Plessis form has come under the scanner; he has managed a mere 13.16 average in his last seven innings and has copped a lot of criticism for giving away his wicket cheaply of late. The leader is under the pump and will be aiming to stabilize the middle order in the upcoming red-ball-battle.
Ben Stokes did sterling work at Cape Town by amassing 72 crucial runs in the third innings and snapping up three prized scalps in South Africa's second innings that changed the complexion of the game and handed a massive victory to the visitors. Stokes has also been awarded Sir Garfield Sobers trophy for the 'Cricketer of the Year' recently and has been riding high on confidence since his ICC ODI World Cup 2019 heroics.
Stokes' compatriot Dom Sibley played a blinder the other day, scored a well-deserved century and is without a shadow of a doubt an important cog in the wheel for England. They would be banking on the temperamentally strong batsman to deliver the goods as both sides look to jostle for bagging crucial ICC Test Championship points.
Rassie van der Dussen and Pieter Malan have been like a boulder in Proteas batting line-up. They would dearly like to cash in on their good nick in the crucial third Test as the series hangs in balance. The duo would need their confidantes to chip in with useful contributions as the likes of Zubayr Hamza and du Plessis haven't been able to push on after getting a decent start.
South Africa: Faf du Plessis (c), Temba Bavuma, Quinton de Kock, Dean Elgar, Beuran Hendricks, Keshav Maharaj, Pieter Malan, Aiden Markram, Zubayr Hamza, Anrich Nortje, Dane Paterson, Andile Phehlukwayo, Vernon Philander, Dwaine Pretorius, Kagiso Rabada, Rudi Second, Rassie van der Dussen
England: Joe Root (c), James Anderson, Jofra Archer, Jonny Bairstow, Stuart Broad, Rory Burns, Jos Buttler, Zak Crawley, Sam Curran, Joe Denly, Jack Leach, Matthew Parkinson, Ollie Pope, Dominic Sibley, Ben Stokes, Chris Woakes, Mark Wood