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England firm favourites to clinch series against tottering South Africa
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England firm favourites to clinch series against tottering South Africa

England, fresh from their two consecutive Test wins over South Africa, look strong favourites for the fourth and final Test at the Wanderers on Friday.

South Africa are struggling to find the right momentum after being handed a massive innings defeat in Port Elizabeth, which gave the visitors an unbeatable 2-1 lead in the series.

Their bowling lacked penetration which allowed the opposition to get away with a mammoth first innings total. Ollie Pope and Ben Stokes struck hundreds to expose the home side’s vulnerabilities.

The change in fortunes for South Africa has been baffling – they had won the first Test convincingly, which gave them slight bit of hope after putting up below par performances last year.

Related: 'We're heading in the right direction' - Root hails England's complete performance

England, struck with injury problems, have had their young players in Dominic Sibley, Ollie Pope and Dom Bess standing up, which has been a real positive. The visitors’ batting line-up, despite being vulnerable and not having enough clarity on how to approach Test match batting, have done well to bat long in a Test match.

"We're heading in the right direction," said England captain Joe Root said after a massive win in Port Elizabeth.

"We've got a group of players who are willing to learn and we're very clear on how we want to play."

'South Africa plagued with issues'

South Africa, on the other hand, are plagued with plenty of issues.

Despite settling in on a playing XI which won the first Test at Centurion, it seems players waiting on the sidelines have a fair chance of breaking into the side.

As South Africa were on the verge of losing the third Test, selectors had called up Temba Bavuma, Keegan Petersen, all-rounder Andile Phehlukwayo and left-arm quick Beuran Hendricks to the squad for the fourth Test.

The suspension of Kagiso Rabada has left a massive void in the pace bowling department. Left-arm quick Beuran Hendricks is expected to play in place of him.

Faf du Plessis has confirmed Temba Bavuma will be in the playing XI tomorrow, which means Zubayr Hamza will be dropped from the side.

Du Plessis had identified batting as the major issue – something which they haven’t been able to do for an extended period.

"I think we are doing well as a bowling unit but from a batting point of view England are showing us how to apply yourself," said Du Plessis.

Also Read: Du Plessis dismisses rumours of retirement, commits to playing T20 World Cup

The assessment by South Africa captain seems fairly one sided. Their bowlers haven’t been able to strike consistently with the new ball, which eased the pressure off England’s middle order.

In the absence of Kagiso Rabada, Anrich Nortje is the only South African bowler who can bowl in excess of 150 km/h. But his raw nature leaves a concern for the home side.

The pressure will be on Philander who is making his final appearance in Test cricket for South Africa. He took four for 16 in the first innings at Centurion but has only managed to take two wickets in the subsequent four innings.

England, by contrast, are pondering over the match fitness of Jofra Archer and Mark Wood. Jofra Archer on Wednesday impressed with his bowling performance in the nets as he was seen steaming in at Jos Buttler.

The other pace demon, Mark Wood, bowled at intimidating pace in third Test. He was rested from training on Wednesday following the heavy workload endured in Port Elizabeth. Wood, however, looked quick with his remodeled run-up which appears to put less load on his body.

If both Archer and Wood are match fit, a selection dilemma will be on hands for England, who will have to then leave out either Sam Curran or Dominic Bess.

Teams:

South Africa (from): Faf du Plessis (captain), Dean Elgar, Pieter Malan, Zubayr Hamza, Temba Bavuma, Rassie van der Dussen, Keegan Petersen, Quinton de Kock, Vernon Philander, Dwaine Pretorius, Andile Phehlukwayo, Keshav Maharaj, Anrich Nortje, Dane Paterson, Beuran Hendricks.

England (likely): Joe Root (captain), Zak Crawley, Dom Sibley, Joe Denly, Ben Stokes, Ollie Pope, Jos Buttler (wkt), Sam Curran, Dom Bess or Jofra Archer, Stuart Broad, Mark Wood.