South Africa v England Third Test Preview: Wood, Archer, or both?
It’s been a torrid month or so for England Cricket. The illness that struck camp has seen off Jack Leach’s tour, James Anderson is injured again with a broken rib, and captain Joe Root missed a day of training this week due to a stomach upset.
You may think it is all doom and gloom, how wrong can we be.
Ignoring the injury to Anderson, the second Test couldn’t have gone much better for England. Dominic Sibley scored his maiden Test century. Yes, it’s early days and there will always be queries over his technique. I for one am still very sceptical about how someone can carve out a test career with that kind of style, however, what he did show was a lot of grit, a lot of bottle, and a foundation that other players can bat around. Without a Sibley doing his thing, we may not have a Ben Stokes doing his on the morning of the fourth day that ultimately led to England’s victory.
Talking of Ben Stokes, how lucky are we to have a cricketer like him? Have you ever seen a cricketer try so hard for his team? This is something that can’t be coached, you either have it or you don’t.
The attitude of all the England players was a stark contrast to the first Test and a level they will need to reach more often.
There was aggression and discipline in their bowling, fielding, and batting. Joe Root had his best game as captain for a very long time, if not ever. He has often been criticised by how he uses Jofra Archer, perhaps the fact that Archer wasn’t playing may have had something to with this.
There is no denying that Archer is a world-class cricketer. His laid-back attitude is something that we all have to accept and in some cases is a breath of fresh air. However, it does seem like he needs either competition within the team, the noise of a full house roaring him on, or someone of Steve Smith’s ilk at the other end to whom he is trying to prove his quality. Maybe it’s the fault of our own expectations but what we have seen since the Ashes has been pretty lacklustre. Yes, he took a 5-for in the first test but he was going at over 5 an over and it was all a little too late. Maybe he needs Mark Wood in the side to drive his speeds up, to fuel that competition and to hopefully ignite the flame.
We don’t really know which way England will go. Zac Crawley looked like he had potential at the top of the order and Dom Bess showed glimpses of quality under a huge amount of pressure in Cape Town. Sam Curran is still 5mph to slow to cause any serious problems if the ball isn’t swinging and used to be someone we could rely on for 30 or 40 lower-order runs.
If I had to choose between England’s rapid duo, I would go for Mark Wood. Yet, as an England fan, we have waited years for two bowlers who can bowl 90mph+ and that is definitely the way I would go.
Stokes was generally underbowled in the last match, except in the final afternoon after Anderson’s injury, and should be bowling more.
Bess showed that he can keep some kind of control which will help rotate the quicks. He can also bat too which covers Curran at number 8.
England have a great opportunity to get the South African batsmen hopping around and we’d all like to see that!
Venatour’s team for the Third Test: