Cricket Preview: South Africa vs England 4th Test
SETTING THE SCENE
The alarm bells were ringing and drastic, emergency steps were taken to try and stop the rot not much more than a week before the first ball of the test series versus England was bowled.
An almost immediate positive result in Centurion gave the country hope but subsequently, it has become a realisation that one cannot simply change doctors as your only method of healing. Medicine needs to be taken and healing time needs to be given, but until then Faf, Boucher, and Smith will dust themselves off, stick a few plasters over the worst wounds and limp into the final test as the Proteas look to salvage a draw – as it stands, they find themselves arriving in Johannesburg trailing England 2-1 in the four-match series.
LET’S TALK TACTICS
The Wanderers is known as arguably the test venue offering the most bounce in the world. Though we have seen some wickets fall to spin in the 4-day domestic competition held at this stadium in recent times, the hometown quicky, Eldred Hawken has certainly enjoyed the facilities on offer, helping himself to 15 wickets in his last two matches here.
Almost exactly one year ago the Bullring was also its feisty self when the Pakistanis were in town, yet the home team themselves struggled to master the conditions with the willow. The South Africans went into that match with a full pace attack and Duanne Olivier picked up eight wickets.
It’s been a long time since the Protea selectors have been faced with so many tough decisions. We could see a number of changes for the fourth test as Temba Bavuma, Andile Phehlukwayo, Beuran Hendricks and Keegan Petersen are all being considered as legitimate options for a Wanderers appearance.
The loss of Kagiso Rabada has created a problem in the bowling unit whilst the long-standing issue remains the fragility of the batting-lineup as they have consistently struggled to put competitive totals on the board.
The visitors arrived on South African shores with troubles of their own but go into the final match of the series having found a lot of answers (unlike their opponents). In Ollie Pope, they have found a rough diamond, and everyone has seen the impressive capacity of Sibley and Denly in valuing their wickets and putting up a fight at the top of the order.
Ben Stokes is poised to walk away with another Man of the Series award as he continues to astonish us in every aspect of the game.
On the bowling front, the performance of Bess will give the English selectors options going forward and Mark Wood returned with a bang in Port Elizabeth. With Archer surely very close to being declared fit we could have the mouth-watering prospect of seeing the dynamic duo of Archer and Wood firing lightning bolts in tandem.
A struggling Protea batting line-up will be looking forward to that as a child does to a dentist visit!
HOW I SEE IT PLAYING OUT
Almost a month on from the opening salvos in Pretoria, the English are poised to put the finishing touches to a very satisfying sojourn to the old colony. Their batsmen have found confidence and the Archer-Wood combo will be raring to use the usual bouncy Bullring advantage against their hosts.
Lock away the children, things could get ugly for the South Africans in Johannesburg between 24 and 28 January. It might be what is required that things get a bit worse before they can start to get better, but a heavy loss on the usually favourable highveld will be a bitter pill to swallow for SA cricket fans.