Sam Curran is banking on a combination of scoreboard pressure and Mark Wood’s fear factor to see England home in the decisive fourth Test against South Africa.
Having lost the opening match of the series in Centurion, Joe Root’s side are on the cusp of 3-1 win after engineering a lead of 465 heading into the fourth innings of the match with two full days to take 10 wickets.
Anything other than a third straight win for the tourists seems a long shot following rousing results in Cape Town and Port Elizabeth and Curran is convinced the stage is set at the Wanderers.
“With a lead of 465 on that wicket we are pretty confident we are in a good position to win the Test. We just have to get it done,” said the all-rounder.
“Runs on the board is always nice, scoreboard pressure. It’s nice for the bowlers to bowl with runs on the board. If it takes us until day five that is fine as long as we stick to it but there are balls in that wicket, a few keeping low, a few bouncing up, and their batters will be a lot more reluctant and less confident than we are with the ball.”
Curran will be hoping his left-arm swing can play a part in finishing things off but there is no secret about the main danger man at present. Mark Wood has taken eight wickets at 13.62 since returning to the side last week, regularly bowling over 90mph and getting under the skin of the South African batsmen.
“Any team that has a guy who can bowl over 90-mph consistently is always going to put fear into the opposition batters. Woody has filled his boots,” said Curran.
“Woody has come back and the way he is hitting 90mph is great to watch, it gives us a lot of confidence. The batsmen have a reluctance to move and are getting into bad positions, especially on a wicket like the Wanderers which has more pace.
“It’s very exciting even for me who is not as quick to nick someone off and see it carry to the slips. It’s exciting and I’m confident myself going into tomorrow. Hopefully I’ll be the one sitting here with a few wickets.”
After bowling South Africa out for 183, England turned down the chance to enforce the following-on having taken the opposite decision in Port Elizabeth.
England made a quick 248 all out instead, Joe Root top-scoring with 58 and Curran adding a handy 37 to bolster the nominal chase.
Assistant coach Paul Collingwood said sending the South Africans back in was never part of the game plan.
“The thing we’ve got to be as a team is very, very ruthless. When there’s so much time left in the match, you just want to drive it home,” he told Test Match Special.
“When you’re on top of the opposition, make it as difficult as possible for them physically and mentally. There was never any thought of following on.”
Collingwood also spoke up for Jos Buttler, whose second-innings score of eight lowered his average for the series to 16.42 amid questions over his Test future.
“He’s an X factor player. Players like that you’ve got to back to the hilt, simple as that,” he said.
“If our batting lineup does the job, which it has in this series, then he can go out there and be positive. Sometimes that’s not going to come off but we know what a world-class player he is. He can adapt to Test cricket and he will win games for us.”
South Africa head coach Mark Boucher suggested his deflated side could still emerge with a famous victory, despite his team needing a world-record mark.
“With time we’ve got in the game, we still have to look at going for the win,” he said.
“Quite a few of our batters are due, it’s going to be tough but we’ll give it a go. Confidence has been low but we’ve got to try and keep talking positively.”