England and South Africa lock horns again on Thursday when the two sides trek north to Old Trafford for what could be a defining second Test of the three-match series they are currently embarking on to round off the international summer for the men.
South Africa dominated the opening game of the series at Lord’s last week so the onus is on England to reply in kind in Manchester if they are to have a chance of winning it at The Oval next week. Avoiding defeat would have South Africa in a great position to win the series.
There was always going to be an element of living on the edge about the way England play their cricket under Ben Stokes and Brendon McCullum and that results might be incredibly inconsistent with some brilliant wins mixed in with some heavy beatings, so the defeat in isolation at Lord’s shouldn’t be dwelt on too much. What might of a concern though is that England weren’t beaten being overly aggressive which served them so well against New Zealand and India earlier in the summer, they were beaten largely in their shells.
That defeat was the first time England have batted first in Test cricket this summer too so it might be that their attempts to put pressure on the opposition are best suited to batting second. That said, they still need to come up with a solution when they do bat first. One excuse which can go the way of the England team in that opening match is that some of their players hadn’t played any cricket for five weeks so those players would presumably come on for the run.
There were plenty who thought that a good walloping by the England Lions wasn’t a good way to prepare for a Test series. Those people might have been right but South Africa didn’t let it affect them too much and ran out very easy winners at Lord’s. The positive for South Africa apart from the win is there is probably a lot more in them considering it would only have been their second red ball match for a couple of months and with most of their players still transitioning from white ball cricket.
The other positive for South Africa comes when you see Simon Harmer bowling in the nets during the game and realising that a serial wicket taker in county cricket for the past decade can’t get in their side. South Africa were brilliant with the ball in both innings and although they would like more with the bat, Lord’s is a very quirky place to bat. With another match behind them those batters should be more effective at Old Trafford.
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England have already named their starting XI for this match as they have done for all of the matches they have played so far. They will make one change from Lord’s with Ollie Robinson replacing Matthew Potts which means that Zak Crawley keeps his place in the side.
South Africa have named the same squad as the one they used for the first Test which leaves their only decision whether to play Lungi Ngidi or the extra spinner in Simon Harmer. Old Trafford does spin at this time of year but the Proteas have Aiden Markram who could bowl spin so Ngidi is favourite for the call.
I’ll go with one bet for this second Test and that comes in the form of the performance of Anrich Nortje, which looks a little on the low side at 100.5 when you consider that he had the English batters on toast and Lord’s and is likely to be on an even livelier pitch here at Old Trafford. He took six wickets in just 20 overs across the two innings at Lord’s and if he can repeat that feat here then he will cover this performance line with the ball alone.
He showed at Lord’s that he can bat though where he made 28 in the only innings he had. If England perform better in this match he might well get two innings but we only need him to score a run to take the target down from six wickets to five and if he happens to score 21 then we will only need four wickets from him and over two innings you’ve got to think that is likely with the lack of technique the England batters have which will be exposed by his pace. Whether he covers it with bat or ball I expect three figures from the South African quick once again.
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