All eyes are on the Oval as England look to end a seismic summer with a bang in the third and final tiebreaker against South Africa.
After being beaten in three days, by one set and 12 runs, at Lord’s, England returned the favor at Old Trafford with a comprehensive victory of one set and 85 runs to level the series and set up a great final slam to a wonderful summer.
It all started with the appointment of Ben Stokes as the new England captain after Joe Root left after a difficult 18 months. It started to tire him out and the smile we were used to faded.
READ MORE :
With superstar Stokes, famous for his aggressive approach to the game of cricket, leading the team in the field, the ECB has chosen the perfect conductor to be head coach, Brendon McCullum. Thus was born the “BazBall”.
On paper, the summer was shaping up to be tough with missions against world Test champions New Zealand followed by a one-time Test against India, carried over from the 2021 series. ‘they lose or draw, they knew South Africa was coming to town, a dangerous proposition with one of the fastest attacks in history and the scalping of India on their home turf in their pocket.
Fast forward three months and England shut out the Kiwis 3-0 and beat India to level the series 2-2 with four successive runs, the perfect plan for the new era of this red ball team.
Humiliated by Dean Elgar’s side at the House of Cricket, England bounced back strongly from the first setback of the new regime, thanks to the performance of captain Stokes, player of the game.
So here we are with everything to play for. Both teams are hungry for success. England are desperate to add a new story to their book of redemption and South Africa are trying to claim their first win over the hosts, home or away, for a decade.
Much of the pre-match talk revolved around the blow of losing Jonny Bairstow to a bizarre golfing incident that appears to rule him out for the rest of the year, including the upcoming World Cup. T20 world.
Bairstow’s summer was abruptly cut short when the Yorkshireman injured his leg after slipping off the tee, just hours after the squad list for October’s T20 World Cup in Australia was announced.
England will have to do without Jonny Bairstow.
Bairstow is in top form and has made 681 carries with a phenomenal average of over 75 in Test cricket this season. It is up to the rest of the team to fire in his absence.
Another Yorkshire batsman, Harry Brook, is set to make his Test debut tomorrow in south-west London, at a ground known to be a batsman’s paradise.
The 707th Test cap awaits the 23-year-old starlet, who has racked up an incredible 1,782 County Championship runs since the start of the 2021 season. This summer, Yorkshire fans were treated to a masterclass from Brook after another, because he smashed the window rather than get into it.
An average of 107.44 over 12 league rounds, including an excellent 140 for the England Lions against that same Proteas attack who will be battling for blood this week in the capital.
The batting has passed from one Yorkshire batsman to another as Bairstow’s summer moves to Brook SZN.
Ollie Pope, who will receive a hero’s welcome on his pitch, rotated with young prospect Brook in the U19 squad and expects him to continue his stunning form in the Testing arena.
He said: “It’s a shame Jonny isn’t here, but Brook is absolutely ready. He’s a very good player. He’s not the kind of guy this opportunity would scare away. He impresses me with his coolness.
“He’s been in ridiculous form this season and he’s got the game to pass Test cricket. He also has the mindset, he loves to hit. I’m excited for him. »
Surrey’s own Pope impressed on his first forays into the Premier League. He made his debut with 145 points against New Zealand and 73 points in the loss to England (165 points).
The England number three added: “We’re very happy with the situation. We’ll try to do it the way we do every Test this summer. Nothing is going to change just because the series is on the line.
“The boys are ready and very excited. We will definitely play this type of positive cricket again. Everyone is free to hit as they wish and you will be 100% supported by the dressing room.”
Betfred odds for England and South Africa for the Third Test*.