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AFP
January 23, 2020

England confident ahead of fourth Test against SA

Sports

AFP
January 23, 2020

JOHANNESBURG: England, fresh from their crushing defeat of South Africa in the third Test, are looking strong favourites to claim a series-winning victory in the fourth and final match starting Friday (tomorrow).

South Africa are still struggling to come to terms with the magnitude of the innings defeat in Port Elizabeth that handed England an unbeatable 2-1 lead in the series. Their bowling attack’s failure to test England and the fragility of their batting line-up were cruelly exposed over five days at St George’s Park.

Barely three weeks ago it seemed that South African cricket had turned a corner after a largely dismal 2019. But the home side’s victory in the first Test proved illusory and since then convincing wins by England in the second and third Tests have seen the teams go in different directions.

Young players like Dom Sibley, Ollie Pope and Dom Bess have shown their quality for England, while more experienced players, notably world cricketer of the year Ben Stokes, have contributed to an impressive team effort.

“We’re heading in the right direction,” a confident England captain Joe Root said after the win in Port Elizabeth on Monday. “We’ve got a group of players who are willing to learn and we’re very clear on how we want to play.”

South Africa, by contrast, are beset with uncertainty. The 11 that played in the first Test looked a solid combination but the side’s struggles since then mean that all 15 players in the squad for the Johannesburg Test at the Wanderers have at least a theoretical chance of making the team.

The loss through suspension of fast bowler Kagiso Rabada has reduced their already limited options. Batsman Temba Bavuma seems certain to play, probably at the expense of the struggling Zubayr Hamza, while all-rounder Andile Phehlukwayo could be in the line-up.