England v South Africa, 3rd Investec Test, Lord's August 15, 2012

South Africa seek to finish the job

Match facts

Thursday, August 16
Start time 1100 (1000 GMT)

Big picture

For the second series this year, England are faced with a must-win final Test in order to preserve their No. 1 status. They managed to produce a No. 1 performance in Colombo to defeat Sri Lanka and stay top of the pile. That performance followed four consecutive defeats and, once again, England have to pull something out of the bag after less-than-ideal preparation.

Their cricket might have improved at Headingley in the second Test but any sign of improvement has been totally overshadowed by a social media ruckus. Twitter, YouTube, text messages and emails have ensured Kevin Pietersen's long-term England future has dominated the news rather than the facts of the immediate future - England have to win this Test. And without Pietersen they are without the man that took the series back to South Africa and at last put them under pressure with his 149.

South Africa might be a little miffed by the Pietersen saga too. They have come dangerously close to being dragged into the mire and few are discussing their opportunity to ascend the summit of world cricket, for which they need only a draw. They are by far the more settled of the two camps and have players in form and in confident mood. Several had injury worries after the second Test but they are now fully recovered and preparing to take South Africa to the top.

Much will depend in this match on England's ability to score enough runs. Sounds simple enough - and the totals they have achieved so far in this series would have been good enough to pressurise many teams - but England have found themselves with too few runs to play with against the depth, talent and mental strength of South Africa's line-up. Twice England have squandered positions to rack up very high scores and they cannot afford to miss their chance at Lord's, otherwise South Africa's order could swamp them once again.

Form guide

England DLDWW (Most recent first)
South Africa DWDWD

Watch out for

There is suddenly some pressure on Graeme Swann. The stock of England's premier spinner has fallen in the last year - he didn't have the devastating effect the Pakistan slow men enjoyed in the UAE and laboured for 50 fruitless overs at The Oval under suspicion of an elbow injury. He took his first first-class wicket since June last week for Nottinghamshire at Taunton. Last summer, Swann used the final Test against India at The Oval, to re-establish his claim as one of the world's best spinners by bowling his side to victory on the final day. He will be hoping for a repeat performance.

Dale Steyn endured a miserable Lord's debut on South Africa's last tour in 2008, taking 1 for 117 as England built a huge first-innings total. He will be looking for happier memories this week and will hope to add to his 10 wickets - making him the leading wicket-taker - in the series so far.

Pitch and conditions

The Olympic archery tournament was completed less than two weeks ago so it will be interesting to see how the outfield has coped with temporary stands and artificial paths. "It's not as pristine as you normally see Lord's but you've got to give credit to them for the effort they have put in," Graeme Smith said. The square was largely unaffected by the archery and with the drier weather in recent weeks than at the start of the season, a truer surface than during the West Indies Test should be found.

Team news

Pietersen's absence could be the excuse England need to play five bowlers in their search for 20 wickets - something they have been loathe to do in recent times. They used Samit Patel as a fifth bowler in Sri Lanka but you have go back to Dhaka in February 2010 for a match where five specialist bowlers were picked. Swann could replace Pietersen with Ian Bell batting at No. 4 and Matt Prior at No. 6. The tried-and-tested method, however, would be to slot Jonny Bairstow back into the side.

England (probable) 1 Andrew Strauss (capt), 2 Alastair Cook, 3 Jonathan Trott, 4 Ian Bell, 5 James Taylor, 6 Jonny Bairstow, 7 Matt Prior (wk), 8 Stuart Broad, 9 Graeme Swann, 10 James Anderson, 11 Steven Finn

South Africa will remain unchanged, as all their injury worries, Alviro Petersen, Jacques Kallis and Smith, have recovered.

South Africa (probable) 1 Graeme Smith (capt), 2 Alviro Petersen, 3 Hashim Amla, 4 Jacques Kallis, 5 AB de Villiers (wk), 6 Jacques Rudolph, 7 JP Duminy, 8 Vernon Philander, 9 Dale Steyn, 10 Morne Morkel, 11 Imran Tahir

Stats and trivia

  • In total, the teams have met 14 times at Lord's with England winning six and South Africa four.
  • England haven't beaten South Africa at Lord's since 1960 - six Tests ago - when they triumphed by an innings and 73 runs.
  • South Africa's record Test total came at Lord's in 2003 - 682 for 6 declared.
  • Andrew Strauss' 100th Test will be his 50th as captain, while Stuart Broad's 50th Test will be his 100th first-class match


"We expect England to be England over the next five days and we just have to be better than them at it."
South Africa captain, Graeme Smith, keeps a simple outlook on the opposition.

Alex Winter is an editorial assistant at ESPNcricinfo