Cricket

Alex Hales is a doubt for the third Test.

England waiting on Alex Hales before finalising third Test line-up

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England will be hoping to avoid a late change to their batting line-up on the first morning of the third Test against South Africa, as opener Alex Hales continues to recover from a virus.

Hales became unwell on Tuesday, the latest victim of a bug that has also struck Chris Jordan, Nick Compton and a number of the team's family members.

The Nottinghamshire batsman was able to take part in net practice on the eve of the match at Johannesburg's Wanderers Stadium but was kept apart from his team-mates to minimise the risk of further infection.

England expect the 27-year-old to take the field provided his symptoms do not worsen but have prepared Compton to move up a place from number three, with Gary Ballance on standby for a recall in the middle order.

Hales himself appeared positive about his chances, tweeting a picture of two new bats on Wednesday evening alongside the words 'can't wait for tomorrow'.

Alastair Cook's side head to the 'Bullring' with a 1-0 series lead, knowing victory would seal an away success over the world's number one Test side.

Only James Anderson has experienced beating the Proteas on home turf, playing a solitary match in the triumphant 2004-05 campaign, and Cook knows how special the achievement would be for a team still finding its feet at the highest level.

"It would be a great achievement for this side to come here and beat South Africa away from home and we're in a position to do that over the next two matches," he said.

"The opportunity is there and it's just whether we're good enough to take it.

"We're in a really good position and it's an exciting time to play on what will probably be two result wickets. We need to win one to win the series and that is a great situation to be in.

"We have played some good cricket so far on tour but obviously there's a danger in saying we just need to win one game if we start looking too far ahead.

"There's a lot of hard work and we need to do a lot of good things to put South Africa under pressure. The results will look after themselves if we play well."

South Africa will go into the match with a four-man pace attack and a new captain, AB de Villiers.

A more demonstrative, less studious character than his predecessor Hashim Amla, De Villiers has promised the South Africans will bare their teeth under his stewardship.

"I am a very competitive person and I truly hate losing," he said.

"Losing is not an option. We are here to win the series and that is all I am focusing on at the moment.

"I've never been the kind to throw a lot of words around or sledge but I like to have good body language and for the team to have good body language and to be in their face in that way. To really make them feel uncomfortable and to remind them they are away from home and not enjoying the (exchange rate of the) pound and the rand too much."

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