England have cause to avoid dead-rubber blues in final South Africa Test | Mike Selvey

Alastair Cook and Alex Hales both need runs in the fourth Test, while Stephen Finn’s absence offers an opportunity for a seamer, as England seek a 3-0 win

These days it is hard to tell whether a match such as this Test in Centurion is the end of the long haul or near the start of the next campaign. The circus always has the big top erected somewhere it seems.

This will be the 17th and final Test match that England have played in the sequence since the first Test in Antigua in the middle of last April. But it is also the third of the 17 they will have played by Christmas this calendar year. That will be a total of 31 Test matches in 20 months. No wonder Stuart Broad is taking more Test wickets than anyone else these days.

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