With lunch approaching England are currently 52/0 in the first session of the 3rd Test between South Africa and England.
South Africa have made one change to the side that played the opening two Tests, a forced change, with Steyn’s broken finger forcing him to sit out and Andre Nel is given his chance. England have made a couple of changes, bringing back Collingwood for Broad, who has looked tired and has been more effective with bat then ball, and Sidebottom returning for Pattinson.
So England have gone back to 4 bowlers, with Collingwood lending a helping hand when asked, and reinforced their batting, with Flintoff staying at 7 but Ambrose dropping from 6 to 8. England do however go into the match with a lot of pressure on the team, they need to win to have a chance at taking the series, and even more pressure on individual players. Captain Vaughn has been lacking in runs for a number of series since his return, and with the team not performing the captains form comes under more scrutiny. Collingwood is under even more pressure, having scored just 92 runs in his last 9 innings. Flintoff and Sidebottom, as well as Anderson to a degree, need to prove that they can last back to back Tests, while also performing at their best. So there is a lot to gain for England, but even more to lose.
As for South Africa, they go into this game without their leading bowler, and much will be expected from the rest of the attack. Steyn has been their leading light for the last two seasons, and without him the attack will be weaker, but it does give the likes of Morne Morkel to step up as the strike bowler. Teams have always had to replace their best player at some time or other, and the test to the reserve strength is a good indicator of the state of the game in that country. For South Africa the emergence of Morkel takes some pressure off the team, without him the panic at losing Steyn would have been more apparent. Morkel will get his chance to open the bowling and a good performance by him will put him in the frame to open the bowling in the near future.
Another who comes into the frame is Andre Nel. Much has been made in the British press about Nel’s alter ego Gunther, who takes over from Nel once the big bowler gets thrown the ball, but in South Africa they will be looking for less antics and more substance. There is a feeling in South Africa that Nel sometimes tends to let his antics take over and tends to over do it at times. That being said Nel is the type of bowler that makes things happen. He wont rip through an innings claiming 6, 7 or 8 wickets, but tends to come on and break partnerships. Having lost his Test place to Morkel, and after the selection fiasco that lead to Langevelds international retirement, Nel will be out to prove a few things to the selectors. Expect a fired up Nel, especially in his first spell.
The wicket does look a tame one, full of runs, with little on offer for the bowlers. The attack will have to be patient and keep things to plan, and wait for things to happen. Steyn’s fire power will be missed, but it gives Morkel and Nel a chance to stake a claim, and Ntini the chance to show the world that he’s still an effective strike bowler.
(pic from cricinfo.com)