SA raring to take series lead with full-strength attack

Fast bowler Kagiso Rabada returns for the visitor in the third Test against England at The Oval.

Kagiso Rabada trains at The Oval ahead of the third Test.   -  AP

The return of Kagiso Rababa means England’s faltering batsmen head into Thursday’s third Test against South Africa at The Oval knowing they will face an even stronger attack than the one that ran through them at Trent Bridge.

Despite the absence of fast bowler Rabada, banned as a result of swearing at England all-rounder Ben Stokes in the series opener at Lord’s, South Africa’s attack bowled the host out for just 133 in the second innings. That sealed a crushing 340-run win in the second Test at the Nottingham ground earlier this month, as it levelled the four-match campaign at 1-1.

England will give a Test debut at No. 3 to Essex batsman Tom Westley in its latest bid to take the pressure off captain Joe Root and former skipper Alastair Cook, a county colleague of the newcomer, at the top of the order. The weakest link of a South Africa attack led by Vernon Philander and Morne Morkel at Trent Bridge was Duanne Olivier, but he will now give way to Rabada.

At the age of 22, Rabada has already taken 77 wickets in 18 Tests at an average of under 25. Proteas bowling coach Charl Langeveldt said Rabada would be “raring to go.”

‘Wonderful bowler’

Meanwhile, star batsman Hashim Amla added: “KG is a wonderful bowler. I’m sure he doesn’t want to get banned again... The way he does it is entirely up to him.”

Westley has been brought in after England No. 3 Gary Ballance was ruled out with a finger injury, although the Yorkshire batsman’s lack of runs might well have seen him dropped. Westley has been in good form for Essex so far this season, scoring 478 First Division runs in the County Championship, including two centuries, at an average of 53.11.

Significantly, he also made 106 not out against a strong South Africa attack for the second-string England Lions at Worcester last month. Now he hopes to join “unbelievable role model Cook,” in an England fightback in what will be the 100th Test staged at The Oval. “We’ve had quite a few good partnerships with Essex, so hopefully we can do the same for England,” said Westley.

“I appreciate everything in Test cricket is going to be another step up in intensity, but I can take confidence from having faced the majority of their bowlers a few weeks ago and scored some runs.”

This match sees coach Russell Domingo back with the squad following the death of his mother. One consolation for England is that, recently, it has rarely suffered heavy defeats in successive home Tests. It will hope that remains the case, with fast bowler Mark Wood looking to prove his fitness and return to form after heel problems at Trent Bridge.

The teams (probable):

England: Alastair Cook, Keaton Jennings, Tom Westley, Joe Root (capt.), Jonny Bairstow (wk), Ben Stokes, Moeen Ali, Liam Dawson, Stuart Broad, James Anderson and Mark Wood.

South Africa: Heino Kuhn, Dean Elgar, Hashim Amla, Quinton de Kock (wk), Faf du Plessis (capt.), Temba Bavuma, Vernon Philander, Chris Morris, Keshav Maharaj, Kagiso Rabada and Morne Morkel.

Umpires: Aleem Dar and Joel Wilson.

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