Tom Westley will make his debut in place of struggling Gary Ballance when England face South Africa in the third test at the Oval on Thursday with the series tied at one.
South Africa went off 9-2 underdogs in the second test at Trent Bridge after losing the first match of the series at Lords. They proceeded to win the toss, make a competitive total and then bowl excellently to dominate the game and win easily, taking advantage of a far below-par England performance particularly with the bat, which has become an ongoing problem. The series now moves on to The Oval on Thursday.
South Africa immediately had added steel under returning captain Faf Du Plessis and despite missing strike bowler Kagiso Rabada were led to victory by excellent performances from Vernon Philander and Chris Morris supported by fast bowler Morne Morkel.
The Trent Bridge test is where South Africa might have found a solution sought since the retirement of Jacques Kallis, who balanced the team as top six batsman and front line bowler. Here two all-rounders in Philander and Morris scored 90 between them in the first innings and 55 in the second, more than a fifth of South Africa's total runs, and took 10 wickets. Together, they played a key role in securing a crucial win.
South Africa’s success at Trent Bridge will likely mean that they keep the four-seam attack for The Oval with Duanne Olivier dropping out for Kagiso Rabada and Morris keeping his place. South Africa still have problems, opening batsman alongside Elgar, for example, and their own brittleness in the top six, but England have real issues to consider for team balance.
At the Oval, Tom Westley will become the 19th batsman to play for England since 2015 and will bat at three replacing the injured Gary Balance. Middlesex’s Dawid Malan was also named in the 13-man squad but will only play if England decide to pack their batting in the third test, in which case he would replace Liam Dawson and probably bat at seven.
England could pick three debutants with Toby Roland-Jones retained in the squad, and an alternative to Mark Wood, who looked as if he needed a break during the Trent Bridge Test and has only one wicket from his 56 overs in the series. Trevor Bayliss' England seem to take an all or nothing approach to tests. If they aren't in a position to win the match they rarely show enough application and determination to battle to secure draws. This makes them a rather uncertain betting prospect, compared to the talent that exists in the team
Weather permitting draws are unusual in modern day tests. The Oval is normally a good batting wicket with some pace and carry for the quick bowlers. Winning the toss and batting should be an advantage, although interestingly five of the last 10 matches at the ground have been won by the chasing side. Which England side will turn up? Well it could well be that England bat and that Cook, Root and Co. compile a total that puts them in a match winning position. You wouldn’t feel that comfortable betting on it, though. At the prices, writing before the toss and a sight at the first morning weather, South Africa at 15/8 has to be the more interesting price.Best prices available at SBR's Top Sportsbooks5/4 England15/8 South Africa3/1 draw