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International Cricket - Cricket: What to look for in the third Test

South Africa drew first blood at Lord's, England hit back at Old Trafford, which means it's 1-1 and all to play for in the third and final Test at The Oval.

The momentum is with England going into the Third Test at The Oval where they are 10/11 to claim the victory and the series.

Well beaten at Lord's in the opener they hit back in style in Manchester, storming to victory by an innings and 85 runs.

WhatEngland vs. South Africa, 3rd Test
WhereThe Oval, London
When11:00, Thursday 8th September 2022
How to watchSky Sports Cricket & Main Event
OddsEngland 10/11, Draw 10/3, South Africa 12/5

Brittle South Africa there for the taking

That triumph at Old Trafford was made all the more remarkable because Ben Stokes lost the toss. Dean Elgar had won the toss at Lord's, inserted the Lions and skittled them in helpful conditions.

At Old Trafford, where it is notoriously good to bat on days two and three and conditions looked perfect for seam bowling on day one, Elgar went the other way and his plan backfired spectacularly.

England's seam attack made hay and the South Africans wilted. Many a batting team would have folded on that pitch, in those conditions, against swing king Jimmy Anderson and pals, but South Africa always looked like collapsing because their batting unit is simply not good enough right now.

Three innings have yielded just one half century – opener Sarel Erwee's gutsy 73 at Lord's. Rassie van der Dussen has managed just three more than that in total, Elgar hasn't scored more than 47 and Aiden Markram's top score is 16.

A seething Elgar said changes will happen at The Oval. Van der Dussen is out anyway with a broken finger, though surely would have been axed, with Ryan Rickelton and Khaya Zondo slated for call-ups.

Elgar and the selectors also need to carry the can for misjudging the wicket at Manchester and his line-up.
These matches are over in no time so why bother picking two spinners with a day four or five in mind – we aren't going further than day three.

Left-arm seamer Marco Jansen, hugely troublesome to most of the England top order at Lord's, will surely get recalled.

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Superheroes still saving England

England, of course, can do little wrong with five wins out of six this summer. It's an incredible cocktail of shambolic batting displays, the odd innings of match-changing brilliance plus a seam attack led by a pair of veterans absolutely on the money in English conditions which suit.

It's surely unsustainable as a model though don't tell coach Brendon McCullum or Stokes that, because they have no problem persisting with this approach.

You can't ignore the fact, however, that the top of the order is a mess and not firing. Ollie Pope, the pick of the top three, is averaging just 34 this summer but that's miles more than openers Alex Lees (25) and Zak Crawley (18).

Their failures are exposing Joe Root too quickly, too often, but of course Root is world-class. So too is Stokes and, with caveats, Jonny Bairstow. Between the three of them you know there is an innings of undoubted class in the offing and right now England are absolutely reliant on one, two or all three of them coming off.

Come next week and The Oval in helpful September conditions, both batting attacks will be examined by two top-class seam attacks and yet again, the toss will be critical. Twelve months ago then skipper Root won the toss for the September Test at The Oval, inserted India, and skittled Virat Kohli and co for just 191.

Elgar called it catastrophically wrong in Manchester. Don't expect him to make the same mistake again if he calls right in the finale.

Don't go booking Sunday tickets – or backing the draw

There have been six Test matches played in the McCullum-Stokes era, all have produced victories, three of them with bags of time to spare.

The first two Tests of this series have been over inside three days while the first one against New Zealand earlier in the summer required just 13 overs on day four.

It's a hurry-up game being played by England and even the odd rainy day doesn't seem to hold them up. Only 32 overs were played on day one of the first Test against the Proteas because of a washout and the match was still over on day three.

You'd be unwise to go booking tickets for day four at The Oval – and you'd be equally unwise to back the draw at 10/3.

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