Fourth Test Preview: England v South Africa
England may have retained the Basil D’Oliveira trophy with a win at the Oval but they will be eager to put South Africa away in Manchester.
Leading the series 2-1 England will want to avoid a repeat of the series against Pakistan last year when they bungled a chance to go to number one in the Test rankings.
The hosts are currently hot favourites to clinch victory in the fourth Test on BetVictor.
This England team has been accused of being inconsistent often following up a brilliant display with something tepid.
England can banish some of the ghosts of the past by completing a series win at Old Trafford but of course the Proteas won’t go down without a fight.
Faf du Plessis’ men have already shown their ability to bounce back from defeat, thrashing England in the second Test of this series.
With Vernon Philander back to full fitness it seems unlikely that the Proteas will make any changes to their XI.
The two unused players in the squad are uncapped youngsters Andile Phehlukwayo and Aiden Markram. Back up seamer Duanne Olivier was less than impressive in his single outing so far and Theunis de Bruyn doesn’t offer the versatility of Chris Morris.
England too, look likely to retain the same XI with the new boys acquitting themselves well at the Oval with Toby Roland-Jones making a star turn and Tom Westley notching a second innings fifty.
Pressure continues to mount on both sides out of sorts openers Keaton Jennings and Heino Kuhn but it looks like both will be afforded another chance to impress.
With Joe Root and Alastair Cook in good touch England probably sport an edge over the Proteas whose top five haven’t come to the party often enough in this series.
Much will be expected of Proteas skipper Du Plessis and senior batsman Hashim Amla. Dean Elgar’s fighting hundred at the Oval was one of few positives South Africa can take from the drubbing.
With Roland-Jones bringing wickets to the party England’s bowling looks strong while their opponents will want to bring a strong response with the attack struggling to cope with the absence of Philander who was struck down by illness during the Oval Test.
England still have fragilities that South Africa could exploit and we expect a titanic struggle with plenty of twists and turns especially given Old Trafford’s tendency to favour seam bowlers.
The toss has proven vital in all three Tests so far and doubtless whichever skipper wins the toss is likely to bat first.
Cook gives the top order much needed stability when he is on song and against a fired up Proteas bowling unit he will be key.
James Anderson hasn’t been at his best this series but Old Trafford is his home ground and he will be eager to prove he is still the number one bowler in this team.
Amla will know that the chance of South Africa winning if he doesn’t make a contribution are slim.
His absence at the Oval was felt acutely and it is obvious to all that Philander holds the key to any Proteas win.
England XI (likely): Alastair Cook, Keaton Jennings, Tom Westley, Joe Root, Dawid Malan, Jonny Bairstow, Ben Stokes, Moeen Ali, Toby Roland-Jones, Stuart Broad, James Anderson.
South Africa XI (likely): Dean Elgar, Heino Kuhn, Hashim Amla, Quinton de Kock, Faf du Plessis, Temba Bavuma, Chris Morris, Vernon Philander, Kagiso Rabada, Keshav Maharaj, Morne Morkel.
Last five head-to-head results
2017 Third Test: England won by 239 runs at the Oval
2017 Second Test: South Africa won by 340 runs at Trent Bridge
2017 First Test: England won by 211 runs at Lord’s
2016 Fourth Test: South Africa won by 280 runs at Centurion
2016 Third Test: England won by 7 wickets at the Wanderer’s
11am (BST) start, Lunch 13.00-13.40, Tea 15.40-16.00, Close 18.00
Umpires: Kumar Dharmasena and Aleem Dar
TV Umpire: Joel Wilson
Match Referee: Ranjan Madugalle
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James Anderson lands key wicket but Niroshan Dickwella fights on
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On this day in 2016: Shivnarine Chanderpaul announces international retirement
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James Anderson returned figures of three for 24.
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The 38-year-old finished with exemplary figures of three for 24 on a surface offering precious little encouragement.
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Sri Lanka steady ship after James Anderson takes three wickets in Galle
The home side reached 155 for three at tea, with England’s record wicket-taker responsible for all three dismissals.