Couch Critic provides his betting tips for the third test match between South Africa and England which gets underway in Port Elizabeth on Thursday 16th January
SOUTH AFRICA vs ENGLAND Port Elizabeth – Thursday, 16 January
SETTING THE SCENE
It was always destined to be a tightly fought series and thus far that has very much proven to be the case. In the first test the Proteas had to overcome a rather spirited chase from the visitors whilst Newlands saw the South Africans come desperately close to salvaging a draw. With the series tied at 1-1 things couldn’t be better set-up as we head into the third of the four-match series.
In Cape Town the Proteas fluffed their lines (for the umpteenth time) with the bat. After cruising along at 150/3 everything seemed well in hand for the home side. Yet somehow they experienced another batting collapse to leave themselves too far behind to compete for the draw especially after Sibley and then Stokes dictated terms. In the fourth innings the locals battled gallantly but there were still a few too many soft moments which cost them the contest in the end.
Team news sees the hosts in all likelihood remaining unchanged whilst England’s chaotic tour continues. James Anderson broke down during the second test and he has returned home with Leach in tow. To make matters worse Jofra Archer’s fitness is also in doubt.
LET’S TALK TACTICS
There have been little rumours from both camps hinting at considering an all pace attack but anyone that has watched a game of cricket at St George’s Park will know full well that that would be foolish. A few days out from the opening ball being bowled the pitch might look a touch green and juicy but you don’t overturn years of embedded nature in the build up to a test. This track won’t offer nearly as much to the quicks as many of the other grounds in SA (though swing and reverse swing is not uncommon) and we should see spin play an important role later on in the test match.
England will have a bit more confidence on their batting group after what transpired at Newlands. Youngsters Sibley and Pope both sparkled whilst Root quietly looked a touch more fluent and of course Stokes keeps performing with both bat and ball. Speaking of the bowling it is strange to think that this might be where the Poms could experience their biggest concern. With Anderson out of action in the second innings their attack appeared worryingly flat. The English will be desperate to have one (or possibly even both) of Archer or Mark Wood for some added x-factor.
The Saffas are still left scratching their heads at how they can finally string a complete batting performance together. Elgar looked comfortable in the first innings (before giving it away) and Rassie spent hours at the crease between both efforts. De Kock remains the form batsman for the home side whilst Pieter Malan fought tooth and nail to keep his side in the match in his debut test. Faf’s struggles continue – though he did look rather comfortable at the crease in the fourth innings before throwing his hard work away with a rash shot. The Big Vern didn’t quite terrorise the opponents as expected in his final Newlands outing and Maharaj wasn’t able to control matters effectively when conditions no longer suited the fire and brimstone of Nortje and Rabada. Given the likely spin assistance in PE Kesh will have to be ready and able to cash in this time around if South Africa are to keep their hopes of winning the series alive.
HOW I SEE IT PLAYING OUT
At this stage in a series my betting plays often become a tad predictable. But we are given a juicy price about head and shoulders the most in-from batsman in the SA side top-scoring and I just have to get involved there!
Joe Denly got off to a couple of starts but couldn’t quite convert in Cape Town. Given that there shouldn’t be a crazy amount of movement with the new ball the English number three could be in the prime position to add some big runs. Again, the price looks very good.
England are unlikely to take the chance of playing both Archer and Wood and running the risk of both of them potentially pulling up with injury. But they will need some express pace from one of them and I reckon Chris Wood might to nudge his way into the side. He will be chomping at the bit to be let of the leash should be selected.
Everyone and his dog has an opinion on the Temba Bavuma saga but aprt from Bavuma himself, Faf du Plessis is the other one caught in the crossfire of this drama. The skipper has been in poor form himself of late and fingers have already started to be pointed at why the leader of the troops is not demoted to hunt for runs in lower leagues. If nothing else, Faf is a fighter and I expect him to be raising his bat sometime during the test with the St George’s band playing away in the background…
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Note, odds quoted are available at the time of writing but are subject to change