England would wish Ben Stokes continue
England would wish Ben Stokes’ sparkling form continues in the third Test as well © Getty Images

England and South Africa will lock horns in the third and penultimate Test match at Johannesburg on Thursday. After having won the first Test and drawing the second, the English team would want to win this match and hence claim the series without waiting for the fourth and final match scheduled for January 22 at Centurion. The second Test was a run fest in which more than 1200 runs were scored in the first two innings. Ben Stokes smashed 258 runs off just 198 deliveries batting at sixth. This was the highest score by a No. 6 batsman in Test history. Stokes got to his double hundred in just 163 balls making him the second fastest after Nathan Astle. Stokes eclipsed Virender Sehwag’s record of 168-ball double century. Scorecard: South Africa vs England 2015-16, 3rd Test at Johannesburg

However, the Proteas came back well with some excellent batting and bowling performance in the second and third innings of the game, which finally resulted in the match to end in a draw. England will go with the same team in high probability for the third Test match since they have performed well in the first two. It may not be wise if they fidget with their team and winning combination. Bhaskar Narayan takes a look at the likely XI for the visitors.

Top-order: Skipper Alastair Cook and Alex Hales will open for England with Nick Compton coming at the No. 3 in the batting order. Cook is yet to regain his form after having failed in the first two matches. Hales, on the other hand, did score a half century in England’s first innings in the previous Test. If England wishes to win this match, it will be ideal that their openers give them a good start and not leave the bulk of the scoring to the middle and lower-order, like the previous two matches. However, if England commence their innings well in the third match and the batsmen continue to perform the way they did in the first two Tests, it will certainly help them immensely. Nick Compton has played well in the series although a century eludes him. He would want to change this trend in the third match. READ: Nick Compton’s form in South Africa vs England 2015-16 series impresses Trevor Bayliss

Middle-order: Joe Root has scored two fifties in the series; one in both matches. Even in the two innings that he failed, he got starts. Root is an excellent batsman having the ability to score big hundreds and maybe that big score is just around the corner. James Taylor, Ben Stokes and Jonathan Bairstow are expected to come in next. Team management may however prefer promoting Stokes to the fifth spot considering he is in sparkling touch. Wicketkeeper-batsman Bairstow will come in next in the batting order. He too is in awesome touch having scored 300 runs in the series at an average of 150. Trevor Bayliss: Ben Stokes can score another 258

Lower-order: All-rounder Moeen Ali will continue to occupy the No. 8 position. Moeen has not performed well with the bat in this series, although he bagged Player of the Match award in the first Test for his seven wickets. But the off-break bowler failed to take a wicket in the second match. For England to win the third Test, it is imperative that Moeen contributes with his spin. Stuart Broad will spearhead England’s bowling attack. He will share the new ball with James Anderson while Steven Finn shall be the first change. Broad and Finn have bowled well in the series and England will hope that they come out good in the third Test as well. Anderson returned to the playing XI after missing out the first Test due to injury. With Anderson returning to the fold, it is unlikely that Chris Woakes, who played the first Test, will get another game in the series unless one of the quicks are injured. READ: Moeen Ali’s four-for sinks South Africa; all-out for 214 at Lunch on Day 3, 1st Test at Durban

England likely XI for third Test (in batting order): Alastair Cook (c), Alex Hales, Nick Compton, Joe Root, James Taylor, Ben Stokes, Jonathan Bairstow (wk), Moeen Ali, Stuart Broad, Steven Finn and James Anderson.

(Bhaskar Narayan is a reporter at CricketCountry and Criclife. He passionately follows the game and is a big fan of Sachin Tendulkar. His Twitter handle is @Cricopathy)