Thursday, August 7, 2008

Unchanged South Africa win toss and bat

Steve Harmison returns to add spice to England's attack.

South Africa won the toss and chose to bat against England

South Africa won the toss and chose to bat in the last match of the series. A dead rubber this might be, but with the appointment of a new England captain there is plenty of intrigue for the final Test of the summer against South Africa. And plenty of opportunity for England to avoid a humiliating 3-0 defeat, too, as they welcome back Steve Harmison and Stuart Broad in Kevin Pietersen's attacking lineup.

Only two Tests ago, Pietersen cracked a sublime 152 at Lord's, and the reaction of an admittedly partisan crowd gave indication that, perhaps, any lingering doubts about his loyalties were vanquished. The applause was warm and grateful. But even Pietersen couldn't have predicted that four weeks later he would be elevated to the captaincy, replacing England's greatest ever leader. The ego has landed: all change, please.

And if it is an indication of Pietersen's style of leadership, he has begun in bullish fashion by recalling Steve Harmison and Stuart Broad. Harmison was named in the Edgbaston squad but missed out, yet has gradually begun to look back to his venomous best for Durham. It will be his first Test since he and Matthew Hoggard - whose career looks to have hit the buffers for now - were axed in New Zealand. Broad, meanwhile, was dropped (or rested) for the Edgbaston Test with concerns over his fatigue. This didn't stop the England management sending him back to Nottinghamshire, however, yet Broad responded with seven wickets. It is his silky batting at No.8 that will have swayed Pietersen, however, as Broad offers vital balance.

Selections are rather more straightforward for South Africa. Dale Steyn's disappointing tour continues, and the tourists - 2-0 up in the series - are set to name an unchanged side from the victorious XI in Birmingham. The only question for South Africa, a team whose focus has a tendency to drift, is whether they can maintain their determination in nailing England when they're down. Pietersen's appointment will only swell their resolve in seeking a 3-0 triumph.

The message from Pietersen's troops is to entertain and, as Broad said yesterday, to "let our natural ability and flair take over". Regardless of how successful Pietersen's tenure turns out to be, it will not be dull.