England bank on summer rain

THE problem with hosting a cricket Test at the Wanderers at this time of the year is that it will likely be affected by rain.

THE problem with hosting a cricket Test at the Wanderers at this time of the year is that it will likely be affected by rain.

So when the Proteas and England cricket teams arrive at the ground this morning for the start of the fourth and final Test match - and with the weather bureau predicting occasional rain over the next few days - chances are the local side will be wearing raincoats. The English will be wearing broad grins.

Needing just a draw to wrap up the series, England won't be too disappointed if a few sessions are lost due to rain as it will make it more difficult for the Proteas to force a result.

It will also be a good toss to win.

Speaking to Sowetan at the England training session at the Wanderers yesterday, former England captain Nasser Hussain reckons it could turn out to be an important toss to call.

"It will be a good track to bat on first and if the rain stays away it should dry out quite nicely," he said.

Predicting a good score was not so easy.

"You never know till you get out in the middle on the day of the match. We will wait and see," Hussain said.

While the batsmen had a net session on the outfield, the bowlers toiled away on a particularly humid morning on the main ground.

A surprise was seeing former England spinner and now Gauteng Lions player Monty Panesar helping out in the nets.

With the way he was bowling yesterday, maybe captain Andrew Strauss wishes he had Monty in his armoury for today.

Knowing his side will come in for some harsh criticism if they lose this series - after losing to Australia the same time last year - Proteas captain Graeme Smith and coach Mickey Arthur will be praying enough time is available to bowl out an increasingly confident England side twice inside the five days.

That they have failed twice in this regard - admittedly it came down to the last ball on the fifth day on both occasions - will be of concern.

If spinner Paul Harris gets the nod in the starting XI, the pressure on the spiky-haired bowler will be immense.

Failing to fire throughout the series, Harris will no doubt be feeling the heat and doubts over his future in the Test arena must be floating about.

Smith's opposite number, Strauss, will just be hoping for more of the same from his men. It's been good enough to win them the one-day series against the Proteas. They are in a commanding position, coming in to this last match of a two-month tour, and Strauss will be stressing the Test is just one hurdle away from a historic series win.