Rabada’s re­turn to fur­ther chal­lenge Eng­land’s bat­ting

Muscat Daily - - SPORTS -

Lon­don, UK - The se­ries sits ex­actly level 1-1 at the half­way stage. A dom­i­nant Eng­land at Lord's turned into a dom­i­nated Eng­land at Trent Bridge, a sur­pris­ingly meek South Africa in Lon­don be­came the strong side in Not­ting­ham and it's the visi­tors who feel they have the ad­van­tage go­ing into the next two clashes, start­ing with the third Test on Thurs­day.

While South Africa fixed its prob­lems from the first to the sec­ond Test, Eng­land cre­ated for it­self. In South Africa's case, a change in per­son­nel saw J P Du­miny dropped, Quin­ton de Kock moved up to No 4 and the sev­enth spe­cial­ist bats­man dis­pensed with in favour of an all­rounder and that seems to be the com­bi­na­tion it will stick with.

Eng­land, though, dis­cov­ered Gary Bal­lance has not suf­fi­ciently de­vel­oped his game to be­come the No 3 it wants, that Liam Daw­son is the sec­ond spin­ner as much as it wants to con­vince it­self and Moeen Ali oth­er­wise and that Mark Wood is not as po­tent as it need the third-prong in the pace pack to be.

Changes will be made with Tom West­ley and Toby RolandJones con­firmed for de­buts due to in­juries to Bal­lance and Wood, but there's also a mind­set change needed by Eng­land.

For South Africa, whether coach Rus­sell Domingo will keep his job if it seals the se­ries is not cer­tain though it would look odd if he doesn't but for now, at least he is back. Domingo re­turned to the UK at the week­end fol­low­ing the death of his mother so South Africa have been sta­bilised, Eng­land ap­pear less so.

The sit­u­a­tion is per­fectly poised for a riv­et­ing sec­ond half of the se­ries and there can be no more fit­ting a venue to start than The Oval as the ground hosts its 100th Test.

Cel­e­bra­tions will in­clude the at­ten­dance of sev­eral for­mer play­ers who achieved great things at the sta­dium along with some cur­rent ones.

Five years ago, Hashim Amla be­came South Africa's only Test triple-cen­tu­rion with an un­beaten 311 that set South Africa up for a mas­sive win. He has named The Oval as one of his top three or four grounds in the world.

The buzz

Eng­land: It could yet have three debu­tants with the de­ci­sion be­tween Dawid Malan and Liam Daw­son be­ing left for the morn­ing af­ter rain pre­vented a close look at the pitch on Wed­nes­day. If Malan does play it would likely mean Jonny Bairstow will drop down to No 7. South Africa: The visi­tors shook things up at Trent Bridge and so the only change in per­son­nel is to strengthen the at­tack. Rabada is back in with Duanne Olivier mak­ing way.

In the spot­light

Tom West­ley: He was pre­ferred over Mark Stone­man to re­place Bal­lance in the XI, os­ten­si­bly to break up the num­ber of left-han­ders in the line-up but his job will ex­tend far be­yond bat­ting right-handed. West­ley's main task will have to show com­po­sure and it is also a chance for him to carve out a ca­reer at the No 3 spot. Kag­iso Rabada: He could have used the two weeks to put his feet up in the south of France but he used his time in the sin-bin to up­skill. He spent ev­ery day of the Trent Bridge Test get­ting in the same work­load he would have had if he'd played the match and has been train­ing at full tilt in prepa­ra­tion for The Oval.

Teams

Eng­land (likely): Alas­tair Cook, Keaton Jen­nings, Tom West­ley, Joe Root (capt), Jonny Bairstow (wk), Ben Stokes, Moeen Ali, Liam Daw­son, Stu­art Broad, Toby Roland-Jones, James An­der­son.

South Africa (likely): Dean El­gar, Heino Kuhn, Hashim Amla, Quin­ton de Kock (wk), Faf du Plessis (capt), Temba Bavuma, Ver­non Phi­lan­der, Chris Mor­ris, Ke­shav Ma­haraj, Kag­iso Rabada, Morne Morkel. Match be­gins at 2pm.

Kag­iso Rabada

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