Venue: St, George’s Park, Port Elizabeth
Date: Thursday, January 16 – Monday, January 20, 2020
This Test series is delicately poised with each team having won one of the opening two matches of the four-game tilt.
It was the host nation that won the first Test – the Boxing Day Test – as they prevailed by 107 runs at SuperSport Park. After England won the toss and elected to field the South Africans made 284 runs off of 84.3 overs thanks to an impressive 95 runs from Quinton de Kock. De Kock was later named player of the match for his efforts, but England did show signs of life with both the bat and the bat – Stuart Broad took an impressive 4/58 from his bowling stint – but it was their first innings that cost them. They made just 181 their first time at the crease as Vernon Philander took four wickets for just 16 runs.
England changed their strategy for the second Test at Newlands where they again won the toss but this time elected to bat. It proved to be a shrewd decision as their scores of 369 and then 391/8 declared never looked like being threatened. Man of the match was Ben Stokes, while Dom Sibley put up his maiden hundred in with the bat as he reached 133 not out in his knock.
This sets the stage for what should be an exciting and evenly contested third Test in Port Elizabeth.
South Africa go into this one knowing that they need to get more out of the number three and four batsmen in the lineup. Zubayr Hamza and Faf du Plessis have not really impacted this series at all, looking vulnerable against the England bowling attack. Expect one – or both – to fire here as they provide better support to de Kock.
Look for South Africa to turn to a fired-up Kagsio Rabada to provide the main force in their attack. This is a pitch that favors spin bowlers to some extent, but neither team has a top-line spinner in their pocket. Keshav Maharaj might be a weapon here, but when he is not playing well his figures are ones that can cost South Africa the match.
The has been a shock in the England camp as Mark Wood is set to make his return to the bowling attack ahead of Jofra Archer. The wicket at St. George’s Park is notorious for its lack of pace, with England looking to Wood and his slingshot like arm to find speed and trouble the South Africa batsmen. Wood looks like he will be getting the nod to replace the injured James Anderson in the England attack.
This is certainly a gamble given that Wood has not played in a competitive game since the World Cup final, but he has been slowly building back to full fitness and he seems to have impressed enough in the nets for this key decision to be made.
This isn’t an easy match to bet before the coin is tossed as BetXchange shows with the two teams almost the same money. England are a much better team when batting first, so if they win the toss the lean is that way.