I gave Toby Roland-Jones and Dawid Malan their caps on Thursday morning and Tom Westley received his from Graham Gooch, so there were three debutants at The Oval, which is always nice to see – and what a debut it was for Roland-Jones!
He made use of some good bowling conditions in the 1st innings, then came back and got another 3 wickets in the second – he’ll be absolutely delighted with the start of his Test career.
I was impressed with the way he got the ball to swing at a good pace, with bounce and he did well with the bat as well, so it’s always handy when you get a few on the board and then come steaming in with the ball – I’m delighted for the lad!
I also have to give enormous credit to Ben Stokes and Alistair Cook, who both had great 1st innings’ in the 3rd test.
Cook’s 88 on the first day really set a platform for England to kick on, especially when the ball was moving around so much – some high-class test batting, showing the boys how it’s done!
It was a very mature knock by Stokesy who put 112 on the board, which really solidified things for England. At one stage, we were wobbling a little bit, so he gave the side the reassurance that was needed.
Looking towards Friday then, and it’s all about whether England can deal with the up-and-down nature of this series and string two decent performances together.
It’s the inconsistency that has killed us lately and the England lads will be well aware of this. They prepare well each time they play, but it’s just about getting a performance out of themselves.
I’d imagine if they win the toss on Friday then they’ll bat first which is usually the norm at Old Trafford, unless there’s a bit of bad weather lurking around.
It usually goes the full five days there and I’d expect a good pitch with pace and bounce which is good for batting, so big scores will be required all round!
I think South Africa at 13/5 is a fair price if I’m honest, because they’re looking a bit fragile with the bat at the moment. If England can get the big guns out early on, like Amla and Elgar, I’d like to think we can get through the rest of their batters quite swiftly.
In this test series, it seems to be that whoever receives the first body blow doesn’t seem able to react to it. First innings runs are absolutely crucial at Old Trafford and if you’re bowled out for under 300, you’re always going to be chasing the game.
I’m expecting Alistair Cook (3/1) to have another big performance in the fourth test, but Joe Root has always done very well at Old Trafford, so at 5/2 to be top run scorer, I think that’s a great bet – a Captains knock to clinch the series!
Joe has captained nicely. Most of his decisions have come off, bar a blip at Trent Bridge, but this is the one where he’s just got to go out and bat well – I think he can do the business!
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