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South Africa v England: Fourth Test Preview

South Africa v England: Fourth Test Preview

14 January 2019, by: The Popping Crease

South Africa v England: Fourth Test Preview

At the beginning of the series, there were high hopes of a South African resurgence and visions of a successful summer. As we get ready for the fourth and final Test, South Africa can no longer win the series, but can only look to save it.

After their dominant performance in the first Test, South Africa have never looked the same again. Their shortcomings against spin are evident as the part-time bowling of Joe Root and Joe Denly and third choice spinner, Dom Bess has been enough to spin them into disarray.

Losing the toss in the third Test was not ideal and being asked to bowl first on an unhelpful wicket was unfortunate, but this should not be an excuse for the team’s poor performance.

South Africa had a lack of game plans and execution on Day two when Ben Stokes (Stokes to score 1st inn. 50 at 1.75) at and Ollie Pope took the game away. They looked flat and as if they were waiting for a mistake to occur. Their batting once again, and more importantly, their shot selections left a lot to be desired.

Both teams, at the beginning of the series, were seen to have weaker batting units, with the bowling being the difference. The fact that England have three centurions in the series (Dom Sibley, Ben Stokes & Ollie Pope) compared to South Africa’s none speaks volumes.

After being asked to follow-on for the third time in the past five Tests, and surrendering to the spin of Joe Root in the second innings, it was heartwarming to see the passion and purpose of South Africa’s lower order on Day five, which should have given the top order a real wakeup call.

The last two wicket partnerships for South Africa produced 135 runs, thanks largely to Keshav Maharaj’s second Test fifty, and his record 10th wicket partnership with debutant Dane Paterson of 99 runs. Imagine what this team could do with a functional top order?

After his fourth demerit point in the past 24 months, Kagiso Rabada is suspended from the final Test which is a huge blow to the Proteas as they look to salvage the series.

Dwaine Pretorius needs to come back into the side. He is a handy lower-order batter and a more than a useful bowler who can break partnerships with his skill to surprise the batsmen. It is also his home ground and he would know the conditions well.

After being asked to go back to domestic cricket and score runs, Temba Bavuma (Bavuma to be SA top batsman at 5.00) made an emphatic statement with his highest first-class score of 180. He’s in form, has a point to prove, and he’s a fighter. That’s what South Africa needs right now.

Whilst others think Bavuma should replace Zubayr Hamza or even strangely Rassie van der Dussen, who after two half-centuries and his ability to bat time doesn’t deserve to be dropped, I think he should replace Dane Paterson, who despite his highest Test score in the third Test, did not impress sufficiently with his bowling to keep his place in the side.


An overarching theme of the Proteas troubles in Test Cricket over the past few years is their problems with their top-order batting. What was incredibly refreshing was to hear the words of South African coach, Mark Boucher, who accepted blame for the team’s performance, and said he needs to find a way to “mentally and physically upskill the players”.

It would be unfair and unreasonable to think that the new coaching staff of Mark Boucher and Jacques Kallis will be able to work miracles overnight. Improvement and changes will take time and we, as the supporters need to give them that time.


A lot of pressure is falling on the young shoulders of Zubayr Hamza, who after only five Tests is being talked about as a “walking wicket”. There are also unfair comparisons made between him and Ollie Pope, who after six Tests has already scored his maiden Test century.

Bear in mind that Ollie Pope bats lower down the order and more often than not, has some sort of a platform to build on. Hamza, however, bats at three, often against the brand new ball. Not everyone develops at the same time, even the great Jacques Kallis had a rocky start to his Test career. Hamza deserves to finish the series and I hope for his sake, he scores some valuable runs.

Joe Root (Top English batsman at 3.00) has had a dream series as captain, making inspired bowling and fielding changes. One could argue, however, has he been tested? When Maharaj and Paterson were batting on their merry way on Day 5 of the third Test, the bowling by England was questionable. Can Root keep his men in check when the going gets tough? Perhaps we’ll find out in the final Test.


The final Test of the series will be played at the Wanderers. This should be a happy hunting ground for the Proteas with the fast bouncy pitches aiding their arsenal of fast and fiery bowlers, but South Africa wouldn’t have fond memories of facing England here as Stuart Broad tore them apart with 6-17 the last time these teams met at this venue.


With England leading the series 2-1 and full of confidence and that word, momentum, and with a South African side low on confidence and without their premier strike bowler, England would be favourites to win the series 3-1 (England to win at 0.40). The Proteas must ensure they end the series as it began, with a Test win (South Africa to win at 1.80) and on a high to ensure another home series against England is not lost.

The fourth and final Test starts on Friday at 10 am SA time, with the toss at 9:30 am.


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