England v South Africa: Analysis and tips for the third Test
Everything you need to know, including where to place your money, as the hosts aim to regain the series lead at the Oval.
Defeat at Trent Bridge only pegged England back to 1-1 with South Africa in this four-match series, yet prompted as vociferous a response as any in recent memory.
The hosts’ floundering batting line-up has been pulled apart and put back together again in different forms by anyone with a passing opinion. News of Gary Ballance’s broken finger was all that offered some post-match clarity.
As the man who has not yet failed – uncapped, therefore untarnished – Essex’s Tom Westley has emerged as the choice to fix a top order that has collapsed to 55-3, or worse, in both matches so far.
Dawid Malan, meanwhile, wins the race to at least challenge Liam Dawson for a place in the side, though a decision on the XI will only be taken on the morning of the game.
South Africa’s tour appeared to be disintegrating a fortnight ago, so victory at Trent Bridge both proved plenty about their resilience.
They still have problems – Heino Kuhn does not look likely to cause much damage, while Temba Bavuma has struggled – but otherwise look in decent shape.
Joe Root’s side, though, remain talented and capable of playing excellently if enough goes their way. They are simply very hard to predict.
Taking that into account, here are our best bets for the third Test:
Joe Root: Over 36.5 1st innings runs –
Root’s two first-innings efforts in this series have produced 190 and 78, while he averages over 50 in four Tests at the Oval.
Backing him to score heavily will rarely leave you disappointed.
Top England 1st innings bowler: Stuart Broad –
Broad’s record at the Oval is similar to Jimmy Anderson’s, but at a longer price it is worth backing the former to lead England’s wicket-taking in this one.
The two are unlikely to face much competition, considering Mark Wood’s poor form, and Moeen Ali’s record of five wickets in three matches on this ground.
Hashim Amla: Over 32.5 1st innings runs –
Amla’s triple-century on this ground five years ago must still haunt Anderson and Broad.
After two fifties at Trent Bridge, failure here would come as a surprise.
Vernon Philander: Over 2.5 1st innings wickets –
England’s new No.3, Westley, made a century against South Africa, minus Philander, at the end of June.
With the new-ball expert back, life will become considerably more difficult for the debutant, as the way the 32-year-old has bowled at Alastair Cook and Keaton Jennings in this series proves.
South Africa to win –
England have lost their last two Tests at the Oval, and come into this game with plenty to prove.
The tourists won on this ground in 2012, and are good value to repeat the trick this time around.
What is Stuart Broad's highest Test score?
Stuart Broad's highest Test score is 169, which came against Pakistan at Lord's in August 2010.