Picture: Gregg Porteous/heraldnsun.com.au
England and South African head to Lords for the third and final match of their three Test series on Thursday, with the hosts needing a win to retain the number one ranking in the five day game. Poor performances in the opening two fixtures see Andrew Strauss’ side take a 1-0 deficit into this clash, having lost the opener at the Oval before holding out for a draw at Headingley. Making things even more complicated for England is the fact that their most imposing batsman, Kevin Pietersen, has been left out and Ravi Bopara is unavailable for personal reasons. Youngsters James Taylor and Jonny Bairstow are under huge pressure against the South Africa’s much vaunted pace attack, while skipper Andrew Strauss is himself in the spotlight having scored just 86 runs in four innings against the Proteas.
After unsuccessfully playing four fast bowlers in Leeds, England is expected to recall spinner Graeme Swann for the match, probably at the expense of the man that replaced him, Stephen Finn, although Tim Bresnan’s spot could be under threat having collected just two wickets in the series to date.
For the tourists, there are no major problems going into this clash. Graeme Smith , Alviro Petersen , Hashim Amla and Jacques Kallis have all struck centuries during the series, while the bowlers have looked much more dangerous than their counterparts. They also have the luxury of knowing that they only need to avoid defeat to snatch their number one ranking from their opponents.
After six consecutive matches at Lords ended in a draw between 2006 and 2008, seven of the past eight Tests at the ground have produced a result.
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