Rarely do events off the field engineer as many twists and turns in the momentum of a Test series as the action on it, but England’s current tour of South Africa is certainly giving it a go.
From the hosts’ injury woes and mid-series captaincy switch to England’s own fitness issues, there has been enough going on during moments of downtime to fill the cricket pages twice over.
AB de Villiers, taking over as the side’s leader from Hashim Amla, goes into his first game as Proteas skipper needing a win to retain any hope of overturning England’s 1-0 lead.
He will have to do it without Dale Steyn, who has failed to prove his fitness from the shoulder injury he picked up in the first Test.
The 32-year-old’s absence is a real blow to the home side as they head to the Wanderers. The ground is a fast bowler’s paradise and De Villiers will sorely miss calling on a bowler that has taken 48 wickets in nine matches at the venue.
Having released frontline spinner Dane Piedt, arguably the biggest threat to English batsmen across the first two games, the hosts will lean on a seam-heavy attack in Johannesburg.
It’s unlikely that Alastair Cook’s side will change, although Nick Compton’s stomach bug and Alex Hales’ throat infection may contrive to disrupt the consistency.
Ladbrokes have the visitors down as marginal favourites at 6/4, with South Africa priced up at 13/8 and the draw available at 5/2. Given the superior form and experience of the tourists’ pace attack, it makes sense to side with them.
Seamers have taken a wicket every 43.4 deliveries across the first two days of Tests at the Wanderers and, with that in mind, looking at a bowler to claim man-of-the-match honours would be a wise move.
Steven Finn has been the pick of the visitors’ pack thus far and at a price of 14/1 is well worth investing in.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.
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