Cricket: England face difficult choices as they chase series victory

By Mark Gleeson
South Africa v England - Third Test

By Mark Gleeson

JOHANNESDURG (Reuters) - England face a selection dilemma as they look to beat South Africa in the fourth and final test to complete a 3-1 series win at The Wanderers.

After losing the opening test, England have turned around their fortunes with back-to-back victories in Cape Town and Port Elizabeth.

Coach Chris Silverwood and captain Joe Root must make tough choices in the bowling department before Friday's start with Jofra Archer and Chris Woakes knocking to get into the side.

If Archer proves his fitness, England will have to decide whether to use him on a fast wicket in the rarefied air of the high altitude venue or stick with off-spinner Dom Bess, who claimed a five-wicket haul in the first innings in Port Elizabeth.

Archer’s pace will be valuable but does come at the expense of runs.

England have ensured success against South Africa by being miserly with the runs, which flustered the hosts.

Mark Wood made an impressive comeback in the last game with genuine pace to rattle the home batsmen, who fell like nine pins in a innings and 53-run defeat. It would be hard to leave him out.

Silverwood also said Woakes had been impressive in the nets. "We've got options available to us again, so that's superb." he told reporters.

In contrast, the home side look rather lightweight as top bowler Kagiso Rabada is banned.

His over-the-top celebration after picking up Root’s wicket last week earned him a demerit point and triggered a one-match suspension as he had accumulated four demerit points over a 24-month period.

His absence is a serious blow for South Africa as it leaves their attack thin on a ground, where usually their bowlers strike fear into the opposition with a non-stop barrage of pace.

They must choose either Dwaine Pretorius, with only two previous test appearances, or uncapped left-arm seamer Beuran Hendricks.

The hosts are also expected to drop batsman Zubayr Hamza and bring back Temba Bavuma, who was axed at the start of the series because of a lack of runs but responded with 180 in domestic competition last week.

The match is likely to be the last home game in charge for captain Faf du Plessis, who said he would reconsider his role after two away tests in the West Indies in mid-year.

It will also be the last for Vernon Philander, who is retiring from test cricket to join Somerset.


(Editing by Pritha Sarkar)