England play South Africa in the third and final test match of the summer at Lords on Thursday needing to win the match to level the series. After working so hard for the previous two years to claim the world number one ranking, England now seem as they will give it up to their opposition unless they can force an unlikely victory.
England will be desperate to get on the pitch after the all the speculation and controversy that has surrounded a certain Kevin Pietersen. There is no doubting that KP is an extraordinary player, and probably England’s best player and most likely match winner, especially judging on current form. However the speculation of what occurred during the second test, where KP is alleged to have sent texts to South African players undermining both Andrew Strauss and Andy Flower, left England with no choice but to drop the maverick batsman.
The South African’s have unsurprisingly deleted all the messages, and put it down to “banter”, but this is far more than that. A test match team spends so much time together that they need to be united throughout the good and the bad, and there is no place for KP’s alleged actions. KP made a staggering U-turn on Saturday by releasing a tape where he committed his future to England over the higher paid IPL, but less than 24 hours later he was axed from the lot.
How Bet365 Bookmaker bets on the 3rd Test:
7/5 Draw, 15/8 South Africa, 5/2 England.
His exclusion means that England enter their most important test match in the last two years with a number five and six that have played three tests between them. James Taylor and Jonny Bairstow are young and new to the test match arena and it seems unfair to thrust them into such a high-profile match, but for both it is a tremendous opportunity. England will surely recall Graeme Swann after they inexcusably left him out of the draw at Headingly. Tim Bresnan or Steven Finn will be the likely player to make way. England pushed hard to force the result in the second test, but ultimately time got the better of them.
Lords, which was transformed into the Archery venue for the Olympic games will be pleased to have its true identity returned. It has been a happy hunting ground for the South Africans, as they have not lost there in their last three tours. They will once again name an unchanged line-up, and captain Graeme Smith has insisted they will be playing for a victory, despite only needing a draw to seal the series victory. This is the first time in recent years that Lords has hosted a series decider and England will need to be inspired beyond belief to win the match.
With such an inexperienced middle order, captain Andrew Strauss needs big runs, especially after a lean run this summer. Jimmy Anderson is also key to England’s chances. England have failed to knock over South Africa before they have scored bucket loads of runs throughout the summer. As leader of the attack Anderson needs to step up.
Will England rise to the challenge or will the drama surrounding KP distract them?
Bet on South Africa to win at 15/8 with Bet365 Bookmaker.