South Africa under pressure
South Africa captain Dean Elgar is likely to take some heat for his decision to bat first under leaden skies and soggy soil. But it made sense.
All Elgar was asking his batters to do was make it to lunch - at worst - three down. Instead it was something of a procession. Rassie van der Dussen was unlucky. Aiden Markram was not. It meant there was a 100/1 winner on day one when Kagiso Rabada copped for top South Africa bat.
Elgar's decision was based on what will be happening on days four and five rather than the first session. Rightly, he expects quite a bare surface to increasingly take spin. It's why South Africa picked two spinners and left out Marco Jansen.
It has to be said that it doesn't look a bad surface. Early pictures of the wicket, as they so often do, merely caused confusion. It was grassy and green. And hey presto when play actually began there was not a hint of grass. It had all been shaved off to reveal a crazy paving-style wicket.
Spin could be important
So Elgar may well be right. The problem South Africa have is they are well behind in the game. England are only 40 behind with seven wickets left. They are 1.182/11, South Africa are 7.4013/2 and the draw is 44.043/1. The match odds are here.
The best prognosis for South Africa is in data. The third-innings at Old Trafford in the last four Tests has been excellent for easy runmaking. The average of 34 runs per wickets is second only to the first (38) and the run rate is the highest of all four.
The problem punters have is that the 7.4013/2 probably isn't value. If South Africa were able to concede a lead of 100, make use of that third innings and then set England around 180, they would probably be around the same price. In short we expect them to get a bit bigger.
Jonny Bairstow's 45-ball 38 strongly hints that surface is true. His runs are set at over/under 67.5 at 10/11 with Sportsbook. Zak Crawley produced a tortured display with 17 off 77. We sold at 19.5 so have little hope left. It may be worth going in again at under 30.5 at 10/11 considering he has to start again. England's innings runs are over/under at 296.5 at 5/6. Check Sportsbook prices here.
One strategy worth playing is Jack Leach for top England bowler in the second innings. We might be able to get around 10/3 with Sportsbook.
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