England v South Africa
Thursday 25 August, 11:00
TV: Live on Sky Sports
England go with Crawley again
England are beginning to slip back into bad selection habits. The continuing faith placed in Zak Crawley because he might win England a game one day, is planning for tomorrow instead of today. He looks completely shot and should be replaced.
But he will play at Old Trafford, not that England have another opener in the squad. Alex lees still hasn't cemented his place, either. With Jonny Bairstow and Ben Stokes looking out of nick there's a lot of pressure on Ollie Pope and Joe Root.
Ollie Robinson returns to the side at the expense of Matt Potts. That suggest England might reckon bounce might be more important.
Probable XI: Crawley, Lees, Pope, Root, Bairstow, Stokes, Foakes, Robinson, Broad, Leach, Anderson
South Africa should be unchanged
It would be a surprise if South Africa changed their team after an emphatic innings victory at Lord's. Not that there are any candidates for the chop.
What was striking about South Africa's performance in game one was the performance of the four-man pace attack. There was not a hint of a weak link among Kagiso Rabada, Anrich Nortje, Kagiso Rabada and Marco Jansen.
That is unusual. It's bad news for England as South Africa threaten to be unrelenting throughout. Spinner Keshav Maharaj was also excellent, taking wickets from the wrong end.
Probable XI: Elgar, Erwee, Petersen, Markram, Vander Dussen, Verreynne, Jansen, Maharaj, Rabada, Nortje, Ngidi
Early pictures of the surface at Old Trafford suggest a green top, just like at Lord's. That immediately makes one reckon that we're in for another quick game. If there is seam and swing, it flies in the face of recent trends at the ground.
In the last 10 years the average first-innings score is 411. In the Championship this term there were scores of 400- and 500-plus. So unless the pitch looks dramatically different on day one, we have a decision to make.
The best advice is simple: wait and look with your own eyes. If the pitch is green and the ball is zipping about there could be cheap lays in-play on whoever is batting first - both can be flaky - at under 210 and 220. Bet England's runs here.
How to play
A green surface is a pity because it rather spoils a planned strategy. With the history for big runs first up, there's often the chance to lay the draw from 3.02/1 at Old Trafford. There hasn't been one since 2006.
The toss is normally key. Five of the last eight have been won by the side batting first but that's another stat that could be made irrelevant. So much for the heatwave and drought. England chased records against Pakistan in 2020 in the fourth in a stunning come-from-behind win.
If a repeat of the Lord's wicket is on the card it is hard to understand how England can be 2.1411/10. An ultra-aggressive approach will rarely work in bowling conditions.
South Africa are 2.95 and they could dominate again if they bowl first. The draw may only get bigger from 5.004/1. No rain is currently forecast. . Bet the odds here
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