ENG v SA, 4th Test Preview: England wary of resurgent Proteas

South Africa hasn't lost a Test series in England since 2008.

Moeen Ali England
England celebrates the victory with Moeen Al. (Photo by Jordan Mansfield/Getty Images)

It has been a see-saw series, with both sides oscillating from the boon to the banal. Both teams have been very inconsistent and will be hoping to get their acts right in the final Test in Manchester. It has been almost 75 days since South Africa arrived in England and they would want to finish the tour of England on a high.

South Africa floundered in the first innings and virtually lost the game at that point as their top order collapsed against some fine bowling from debutant Roland-Jones. Conceding a 178-run lead in the first innings is never ideal as the hosts went on to pile the misery on the South Africans. The top order, barring Elgar who made a memorable century in the final innings of the Test, failed yet again in the second innings to hand the hosts an easy 239-run win. The top order must step up in the final game of the series if they want to keep their record in England intact.


Root & Co. know that they haven’t played their A game yet. Their performance hasn’t been dominating with the bat at all but has been compensated for some fine bowling efforts from the English bowlers. Moeen Ali continues to play a telling role with the ball in the latter parts of the game. England’s four-man pace attack has worked well for them with Moeen chipping in with vital wickets with his off-spin.

It hasn’t been a series for the batsmen as only 3 centuries have been recorded in 12 innings so far. Cook came close but missed out on the landmark by 12 runs. He hasn’t made a huge contribution in the series so far and is due for a big one at the Old Trafford. His opening partner Jennings will be under severe pressure to get runs if he wants to retain his place for The Ashes in Australia later during the year.

Toss: England won the toss and opted to bat

Playing XI

South Africa: Heino Kuhn, Dean Elgar, Hashim Amla, Quinton de Kock(w), Faf du Plessis(c), Temba Bavuma, Theunis de Bruyn, Keshav Maharaj, Kagiso Rabada, Morne Morkel, Duanne Olivier

England: Alastair Cook, Keaton Jennings, Tom Westley, Joe Root(c), Dawid Malan, Ben Stokes, Jonny Bairstow(w), Moeen Ali, Toby Roland-Jones, Stuart Broad, James Anderson

Focus will be on:

Ben Stokes

The spotlight refuses to go away from Stokes. Man of the Match in the last game, Stokes is quickly becoming the most valuable player in the world across formats. Ever since he appeared for the Rising Pune Supergiant in the IPL earlier in the year, Stokes has transformed to become a completely different player. His batting has improved significantly, as seen in the first innings of The Oval Test or during the Champions Trophy, while he still continues to play a vital role with the ball. Stokes catching, especially in the slips, was outstanding in London. He will, again, have to play a leading role if England wants to secure a series win against South Africa in Manchester.

Faf du Plessis

Skipper du Plessis faced his first Test defeat in red-ball cricket. Such has been his impact as South Africa skipper, that he had gone 11 Tests without facing a defeat in this form of the game. The only defeat he has faced was in pink-ball cricket when Australia won the Adelaide Test last year in November. The right-hander has just 83 runs in four innings so far in the series. He demoted himself at No. 5 in order to give youngster de Kock a taste of batting at No. 4 in Test cricket. With a series loss in England after 9 years looming large on the visitors, they should get Faf batting at 4 in Manchester. He has the skill, quality, and temperament to produce a telling knock in testing conditions.

Playing combinations


The home side has given Keaton Jennings another chance, probably his last, to prove his worth as a Test opening batsman for England. He will look to take a leaf out of his opener partner Alistair Cook’s book and look to bat for long periods of time. Tom Westley and Dawid Malan are expected to keep their place in the side and Root will sandwich between both youngsters at No. 4. Stokes and Bairstow are perfect for No. 6 and 7 spots whereas Moeen can make swift runs batting at 8, besides turning his arm over regularly with his off-spinners. The three-man pace attack – Anderson Broad and Roland-Jones – would look to work successfully together before the selectors sit down to pick the squad for The Ashes.

South Africa

The Proteas have instilled confidence in Heino Kuhn, which will work wonders for the right-hander. He will open the innings with last match’s centurion Dean Elgar. Amla, de Kock, du Plessis and Bavuma will make the middle order of the visitors. The fact that Philander has been deemed fit for Manchester comes as a big boost for South Africa. He, along with Morris, have been potentially seen as the guys to fill the void left by Jacques Kallis as both are able batsmen. Rabada, Morkel, and Maharaj will make up the rest of the numbers as South Africa is set to retain the same XI for the final Test.


Stat Attack:

46 – Runs required by Joe Root to complete 5,000 Test runs.

9 – Wickets required by Stuart Broad to go past Ian Botham’s tally of 383 wickets to become the second highest wicket taker for England in Tests.

2001 – Was the last time England lost a Test in Manchester. Since then, they have won 8 out of the last 10 Tests, drawing two.