It all starts again on Friday, folks. The fourth and final Test of England’s tour of South Africa will decide whether or not they leave the Rainbow nation as victors, or simply with the series drawn. They’ll be hoping it’s the former, of course, and the quality of their cricket to this point suggests that it could well be.
What can we expect?
As any successful touring side must, England have successfully adapted to conditions throughout for the most part this series and it seems likely that they’ll need to do so again. Johannesburg usually suits seam bowling, so we can probably expect a little more life in this track for the quicker men. The first day in Port Elizabeth required plenty of patience and was by no means easy, but the challenge will be different this time out.
England won’t mind that, either; not only do they have a plethora of high-class seamers to call upon themselves but South Africa’s leader in the pace department is missing. Kagiso Rabada won’t play in this crucial Test thanks to his over-zealous celebration in the first innings at Port Elizabeth. He was deemed to have overstepped the line following the wicket of Joe Root, and ultimately that’s a shame. We all want to see England play against – and, of course, beat – the very best their opponents have to offer.
That’s not to say it’ll be a breeze. Vernon Philander is one of the finest seamers in world cricket, while Anrich Nortje has been extremely impressive during his first full Test series. South Africa are not a bad side, it’s impossible for them to be the talent at their disposal; they’re just in a rut. England would do well not to underestimate their hosts, or they risk falling short of what would be a fantastic series win.
Missed what the Barmy Army got up to at Port Elizabeth? Check it out here.
This is an interesting one. England have shown twice this winter that they’re not afraid of playing five seamers and could be tempted to do so again. That seems unlikely this time around, however, given Dom Bess’ performances in the second and third Tests. He’s already proven that he can do what’s required of him, taking wickets when it’s turning and playing that all-important holding role when it’s not.
With that in mind, England are likely to be unchanged. The only tweak they may be tempted to make would see Jofra Archer included in place of one unlucky bowler – the pitch should suit Archer, and he’ll be pushing hard for a return in Johannesburg now that he seems to be nearing full fitness. Stuart Broad, Mark Wood, and Sam Curran would all be unlucky to miss out, though. Other squad members, such as Chris Woakes, Jonny Bairstow, and Matt Parkinson, will likely have to wait their turn barring any fresh injury concerns.
Possible XI: Sibley, Crawley, Denly, Root (c), Stokes, Pope, Buttler (wk), Curran, Bess, Wood, Broad
Let’s not pretend that England are the finished article just yet. Perspective is important and this is a side on a journey, not one already at their destination. Despite that, this tour has seen Root and his England side grow considerably. A victory in this game would cap that off perfectly and it does seem the most likely outcome.
South Africa are without their attack’s spearhead and their batting unit has been shaky all series. Wounded animals and that typical South African fight aside, it’s clear which camp we’d all rather be in at this point. England have enough match-winners in their squad to overpower their hosts in this fourth and final Test, allowing them to return home on the right side of a 3-1 scoreline.