The Proteas, during the third Test at the Oval. Photo: Reuters/Andrew Couldridge

MANCHESTER - Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t get the sense that this Test series between England and South Africa is capturing the imagination of locals in a way you’d expect of a major series between two reasonably good Test sides.

To be clear, crowds at the first three Tests have been good, and in local papers and on the websites the series is getting big coverage, but it also feels like the sporting focus is being dragged elsewhere.

I covered the series between the teams here in 2012 and the first two Tests of that series definitely went by virtually unnoticed as the public’s attention started turning to the Olympics, which started four days after The Oval Test concluded.

The Games were over by the time the series got back to London when Kevin Pietersen’s text-gate scandal and subsequent suspension meant the series was on the front and back pages and the exciting series decider - which went into the final session of the last day - ensured that match was a memorable one.

Once again, though, it feels like the current series is occurring in the shadows. Certainly, the run to the final and the subsequent triumph of the England Women's team in the World Cup garnered a fair amount of attention of all the major daily publications.

It may turn out that when people recall the summer of cricket in England of 2017, it will be Heather Knight and her side, rather the Joe Root’s team, who will be remembered more.

And just as the excitement of the Women's team is starting to die down, along came Usain Bolt on Thursday, to draw attention to the World Athletics Championships starting in east London on Friday - the same day the fourth Test starts in Manchester. Bolt, if all goes according to plan, will run the 100m final on Saturday night. Guess where most people’s attention will be?

Moeen Ali provided a moment for the ages with his hat-trick that ended the third Test, but in truth, the cricket in the first three Tests hasn’t been particularly good and it’s been more a case of one team’s errors and their inability to recover from them that has seen such massive margins in terms of the results.

As far as TV networks who broadcast the matches here live are concerned, a series against South Africa is not an easy sell. The Ashes reign supreme. India second. South Africa sit in a group along with New Zealand and Pakistan. It just ain’t that sexy.

So, it would be nice if the series could end on a memorable note at Old Trafford. A close game, running into the fifth day.

The Star

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