England will resume Day 4 at 121/1 in their quest of chasing 376 versus South Africa in the first Test at the SuperSport Park in Centurion.
Is it going to be Headingley all over again? Well well well, things went against script late on Day 3 as the visitors showed incredible grit to stay alive in the contest, and now the contest has shaped up scarily similar to that of the third Ashes Test in Leeds. The men out in the middle for the English are Rory Burns and Joe Denly and well, I’m going to break a few South African hearts and back these two gritty blokes and put my faith in them to help us win money this Sunday.
Rory Burns to score a hundred @ 1.72
2019, especially the latter half of it, has been the year where Rory Burns has announced himself to the cricketing world. The Ashes, in particular, was a turning point in Burns’ career and the opener has been incredible ever since. Since the Ashes, Burns has averaged 47.14 in 8 Tests, having scored 2 centuries and 6 fifties. But what’s more interesting about this period is his average, which increases to a staggering 67.50 away from home. In 5 innings away from home since Aug 2019, Burns has, in fact, scored 1 hundred and 2 fifties. The century, incidentally, came in the last Test he played versus the Kiwis in Hamilton. On the eve of Day 3, the southpaw looked in ominous touch, racing off to a half-century in no time, ending the day unbeaten on 77. If anything, him having already struck 11 fours in this innings speaks volumes about how good he was, on Day 3. Mind you, he, for a fact, knows how to get those big tons, having scored 18 tons in first-class cricket. With the pitch flattening out and with him taking a liking to the Proteas bowlers, Burns scoring 23 more runs and bringing up his third ton looks like an inevitable outcome.
Joe Denly to score a fifty @ 2.75
Never have I before been so confident about a batsman reaching a particular landmark, and never did I think the day would come when that batsman would be Joe Denly. I have nothing but respect for this absolute warrior of a batsman, who is really starting to thrive in international cricket now. Don’t let his overall career stats, that of an average of 31.50, fool you; he has been an absolute pillar of late. In his last 9 innings, Denly has scored an incredible 5 fifties, with a high score of 94. But what’s more incredible is the fact that he’s turned himself into a man for crisis situations. In the 4th innings of matches, Denly averages 41.33, and in each of the last two times he batted in the first innings - in Leeds and Manchester - he scored a fifty. In fact, in the first innings of this match, too, he scored a fifty. Starting from the warm-up games, Denly has been on point in this tour, and his scores read 60*, 103, 50 and 10* - he has never been dismissed under 50 in this tour. Similar to Burns, Denly looked at ease when he batted late on Day 3, and having closed out the day unbeaten on 10, him bringing up a fifty in the first session of Day 4 seems to me like a mere formality.
England runs at the fall of 2nd wicket over 146.5 @ 1.83
We have already established how good the duo of Burns and Denly have been - both in this innings and of late, in general - so it is only common sense that they will bat together for a considerable time early on Day 4. But more than Burns and Denly, I want to shed light on the the nature of this Centurion pitch, which seems to be getting flatter by the passing minute. Three wickets fell in the morning session of each of the first 3 days, but interestingly, a whopping 125 runs were added on the morning of Day 3, despite night-watchman Anrich Nortje occupying the crease for a major part of it. In fact, Day 3 saw just 7 wickets fall in total, whilst 321 runs were added; that’s basically a wicket every 45.8 runs. To put things into perspective, Day 1 saw a wicket fall 30.7 runs while Day 2’s figure was 17.33. In fact, the pairing of Nortje and Van der Dussen themselves added 81 runs on the morning of Day 3. With the score 121/1, and with both Rabada and Nortje leaking runs at an ER well over 3, expect the Burns/Denly duo to pounce on the Proteas bowlers and stretch this partnership way past a score of 147.