Fourth Test preview: South Africa in Pretoria

By Steven Jones

The wonderful series win away from home over the number one team in the world has already been secured – outstanding performances from Stuart Broad and Joe Root obliterated South Africa in three days at the Wanderers – but England go again at Centurion tomorrow.

A measure of just how good Broad and Root were in Johannesburg is that their respective contributions of 6-17 and 110 are considered by some to be their best ever. And this is from the duo who produced 8-15 and 130 on that heady Trent Bridge day last summer. 

Alastair Cook, Joe Root, Moeen Ali and Jonny Barstow sing the national anthem before clinching the series win in Joburg

There are always points to prove in Test cricket – captain Alastair Cook highlighted first tons for Alex Hales and James Taylor as team objectives – as settled, young England continue to build. 

Unlucky Steven Finn is ruled out with a side injury, with Chris Woakes, who played in the first Test win, at the head of the queue to replace him. Meanwhile South Africa are expected to make a number of changes after the debilitating series defeat.

Opener Stephen Cook, who has scored a plethora of first-class runs, is set to debut and wicketkeeper-batsman Quinton de Kock passed a fitness test on his injured knee.  Hulking fast bowler Hardus Viljoen has been released from the squad, with off-spinner Dane Piedt in line to provide a different option alongside Morne Morkel, Kagiso Rabada and Chris Morris.

Both teams have enviable records to protect tomorrow, hinting at an intriguing finale. South Africa have an imposing record playing in-front of Centurion’s vast grassy banks, winning 15 of 20 Tests and only losing two. But one of those defeats was to England in 2000, who have never lost here.

When ? Friday, 22 January
Where ? SuperSport Park, Centurion
Start ? 8:30am (GMT)

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The squads

Alastair Cook (Essex, capt), Moeen Ali (Worcestershire), James Anderson (Lancashire), Jonathan Bairstow (Yorkshire, wk), Gary Ballance (Yorkshire), Stuart Broad (Nottinghamshire), Jos Buttler (Lancashire, wk), Nick Compton (Middlesex), Mark Footitt (Surrey), Alex Hales (Nottinghamshire), Chris Jordan (Sussex), Samit Patel (Nottinghamshire), Joe Root (Yorkshire), Ben Stokes (Durham), James Taylor (Nottinghamshire), Chris Woakes (Warwickshire).

South Africa off-spinner Dane Piedt is pushing for a recall after nine wickets in the first two Tests

South Africa
AB de Villiers (capt), Kyle Abbott, Hashim Amla, Temba Bavuma, Stephen Cook, Quinton de Kock, JP Duminy, Faf du Plessis, Dean Elgar, Morne Morkel, Chris Morris, Dane Piedt, Kagiso Rabada, Dale Steyn, Stiaan van Zyl,

Big game for…

James Taylor
Taylor wowed cricket fans with two stunning catches at short leg as England ripped South Africa apart on day three in Johannesburg, his diminutive frame and amazing reactions seemingly perfect to be close to the bat and under the helmet. However, the 26 year-old is not in the team for his fielding, he’s there to score middle-order runs. Knocks of 70 and 42 were crucial in the Durban win and the busy batsman will be eyeing a first ton on his seventh appearance after a couple of lean Tests. 

James Anderson
England’s leading wicket-taker was strangely subdued at the Wanderers, taking one scalp in each innings to add to one on his return from injury in Cape Town. The 33 year-old was outstanding in the UAE, with 13 wickets and an economy rate of 1.87 evidence of the 112-Test man’s enduring class. Anderson needs two more wickets to draw level with Richard Hadlee (431) and six more to match Kapil Dev (434) in the all-time Tests charts, appropriate targets before heading home for a rest.

Stephen Cook
“Make sure you’ve got a full tank of petrol because you’re going to be driving to Centurion.” That is what opener Cook was told on the phone by South Africa selector Linda Zondi ahead of what will be a long overdue Test debut. The 33 year-old has scored 11,427 first-class runs and has a high score of 390 but has been ignored at the top level for years. The Lions right-handers scored an unbeaten 53 for South Africa A in Pietermaritzburg as England won by an innings and 91 runs at the start of the tour and followed that with successive tons (158* and 118). He’s a man in form and will bring crucial stability to the top of the order. 

Opener Stephen Cook is set for a Test debut after scoring more than 11,000 first-class runs

Dane Piedt
Notwithstanding the Wanderers’ status as a fast-bowling paradise, off-spinner Piedt can count himself unlucky to miss out when he was the series’ leading marksman on nine. The 25 year-old, who has dismissed 21 batsman in his four Tests, bounced back with eight wickets for Cape Cobras and could return to offer control among the speedsters. And success on another pace-friendly surface will prove his worth in all conditions.

Quotes from the captains

Alastair Cook : “Hopefully Alex [Hales], James [Anderson], Nick [Compton], myself, we can end the series well. The guys are desperate to shore up their spots so when the selection meeting comes for the Sri Lankan series, they’ve earned that right.

“I’m really looking forward to this week to see how people respond to that. We’ve got an opportunity to see how far we’ve come.”

AB de Villiers : “There’s no hiding from the fact that they seem to know what they are doing. But there’s also no doubt that there are weaknesses there, and we’ve exposed some of them – but not enough and not for long enough.

“It’s a huge game for us. We’d hate to lose 3-0. I think 2-1 sounds a lot better. It would be great to win a Test. We haven’t won a Test for 12 months.”

South Africa captain AB de Villiers shakes hands after Joe Root hit the winning runs at the Wanderers

Previous meetings

14 January, 2016 in Johannesburg: England won by seven wickets
2 January, 2016 in Cape Town: draw
26 December, 2015 in Durban: England won by 241 runs
16 August, 2012 at Lord’s: South Africa won by 51 runs
2 August, 2012 at Headingley: draw
19 July, 2012 at the Oval: South Africa won an innings and 12 runs

Did you know?

England are undefeated on their last two tours to South Africa; winning 2-1 in 2004/05 and drawing 1-1 in 2009.

South Africa have a 17-2 win-loss ratio at Centurion.

Only one England batsman has made a century at Centurion, 141 from Graeme Hick in 1995.  

Alastair Cook is 117 runs shy of becoming only the 12 th batsman ever to reach 10,000 Test runs; the first player to do so for England.

Hashim Amla averages 85.27 in Pretoria and his 208 against the West Indies in 2014 is the highest individual score here.

Source: ECB

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