South Africa and England will face off in the fourth and final Test of the series at SuperSport Park in Centurion, starting Friday. With England having already claimed the series, South Africa will have only pride left to play for. But, they would be keen to make an impression. Having lost 3-0 in India, another similar result would have a detrimental effect on the team. After all, this is a series South Africa are playing at home. Come to think of it, one brilliant spell from Stuart Broad was the only difference between the teams at Johannesburg. England undoubtedly will begin as favourites, but South Africa will aim to fight it out.
On the team composition front, there is not a lot of good news for the hosts. Their pace spearhead Dale Steyn will miss the final Test as well, having failed to recover from his shoulder injury. This means the responsibility of leading the attack once again lies with Morne Morkel. The bowling is definitely weakened in Steyn's absence though Morkel always bowls his heart out. Kagiso Rabada's maiden Test five-for means he is all set to retain his place, along with Chris Morris, whose batting prowess gives him an edge. With Hardus Viljoen not part of the final Test, it would be interesting to see whether the Proteas employ the services of another spinner in Dane Piedt or bring back Kyle Abbott.
Expect some changes in the batting line-up as well. Opener Stiaan van Zyl has now had two back-to-back poor series' against India and England. The South Africans selectors had no option but to look for a replacement. They couldn't have continued with him for any longer. And so, the in-form opener in domestic cricket has been chosen in Stephen Cook. He will open the innings alongside Dean Elgar who has had a decent series, but can definitely do better. In the end though, it could all boil down to how well the experienced trio of AB de Villiers, Hashim Amla and the struggling Faf du Plessis preform. Quinton de Kock is also fit so that is also good news.
Having claimed the series in emphatic fashion, England will be raring to go all-out again. In a rather strange way, the biggest plus for the visitors from the series is the fact that they have won the series without significant contributions from two of their biggest match-winners in James Anderson and skipper Alastair Cook. With the pressure off them now, the experienced duo will be keen to leave their impression on the series. Also, with Steven Finn, one of their most successful bowlers in the series being ruled out, it gives a chance for the likes of Chris Woakes, Chris Jordan or even Mark Footitt to get a look in.
As for the form players, England will not like much to change. Stuart Broad has made it a habit of running through opponents in one spell at least once in almost every Test series. It will be asking too much of him to repeat his heroics, but he clearly holds an edge over the South African batsmen going into Centurion. Unlike South Africa, England's batting is also in great shape. Joe Root is living up to the tag of being England's most accomplished batsman in years. Nick Compton and James Taylor have grabbed their opportunities while Ben Stokes has grown in stature over the last two Tests. The Proteas will have to play tremendously well to outclass England.
-- By A Cricket Analyst