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Stuart Dalgleish 15th Aug 2012 - 14:04

England can do their talking on the pitch

England v South Africa preview - 11:00 live on Sky Sports 1

It's fair to say that it has not been the best of weeks for England (5/2) captain Andrew Strauss (4/1 top England batsman).

The focus should've been on the opening batsman playing in his 100th Test match, but instead he's had to field questions on somebody that will not even be playing in this crucial third and final Test against South Africa (7/4, draw 11/8) - Kevin Pietersen.

The controversial star has had an interesting couple of months to say the least, but this last week or so has been bonkers even by his standards.

After the last Test he hinted he might retire from Test cricket (which in turn would mean he'd be retired from all forms of the international game), he then threw a strop about a parody Twitter account about himself and it was subsequently closed.

A YouTube video was then produced announcing that Pietersen is happy to play all three formats of the game, only for the very next day it was decided that the ECB were dropping him from the third Test.

The reasons became clear that it was for KP sending derogatory texts to members of the South African team, which their board suggested were 'banter' anyway.

The result of it all is that England go into this must-win game without their leading run-scorer for the series, and arguably their best batsman full stop.

If England were firing on all cylinders then it might not be a problem, but scoring big totals has been a problem for them in these two Test matches; only KP's century in the last Test helped save a draw, otherwise it might well have been game over for that match and game over their number one ranking.

As it is, England still have a chance of remaining the world number one Test team, but they need to beat the Proteas, a draw and South Africa win the series and overtake them at the top - the Aussies are hot on their heels too which will make the next year leading up to the Ashes very exciting.

England know they can win this match, they just need to have a more measured approach at the crease, too many times so far this series they've given their wicket away softly - going back to basics could help them at Lord's.

Strauss in particular has been guilty of some pretty ordinary shots for his dismissals, the skipper is 5/1 to put those behind him and score a 100 in his 100th match - just like Graeme Smith (4/1 top SA bat) did in his landmark game in the first Test.

Jonny Bairstow (8/1 top England batsman) is back in the team after KP's absence, and he could do with a score after disappointing against the West Indies, the likes of Dale Steyn (2/1 top SA bowler) and Vernon Philander (5/2) will really be pinging it in at him to crank up the pressure.

The top order really need to set the ground works in this game, with Bairstow and James Taylor (8/1 top Eng bat) new to Test cricket it is up to the old guard to show why they're part of the best team in the world - it is 5/6 that England have the highest opening partnership in the first innings.

South Africa have no worries as far as team news is concerned, Alviro Petersen (9/2 top SA bat) should be fit to return to the top order after his injury at Headingley, although Jacques Rudolph (6/1) did a pretty good job on familiar turf so they could ease him in further down the card if needs be.

The other change in the England team will be Graeme Swann (7/2) returning to the fold, the Leeds track offered plenty of turn and you would think the selectors will not want to leave their star spinner out again - Steven Finn (10/3) could be the man to make way.

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