The first of four Test matches between the Proteas and England will commence at Supersport Park in Centurion on Boxing Day.
South Africa might be relieved to finally get back to cricket after weeks of boardroom wranglings and legal battles.
Image Copyright – Steve Haag Sports
South Africa vs England | 26 December – 30 December | SuperSport Park, Centurion
To Win Match
South Africa 13/10
Six uncapped players were called into the squad for the first Test named under Team Director Mark Boucher.
Boucher returns to the familiar surrounds of SuperSport Park having been handed the reins of the national team just twelve days before the Boxing Day Test.
Skipper Faf du Plessis will have to hold together a middle-order that might have an experimental look to it. Zubayr Hamza and Quinton de Kock are likely to retain their places in the XI from the last Test played in India.
Injury to Lungi Ngidi might open the door for Andile Phehlukwayo to make his return to Test cricket, he faces stiff competition for a seamers place though from Beuran Hendricks and Dane Paterson. Anrich Nortje and Kagiso Rabada should take the new ball.
England have a new-ball quandary courtesy of the illness that struck Stuart Broad and Jofra Archer with both in doubt for the first Test.
Runs for Joe Denly and Ollie Pope likely confirmed both men will crack the starting XI for the Boxing day encounter. Pope is not expected to take the gloves though with Jos Buttler fit and raring to go.
James Anderson’s return to fitness has provided a welcome boost for England in the wake of the troubles with Broad and Archer. Anderson led the attack in the warm-ups taking wickets on some very flat surfaces.
Skipper Joe Root and allrounder Ben Stokes will be critical to the success of the England middle-order and the team as a whole, both looked to be in good form on the tour of New Zealand.
Verdict: England 13/10
England have had better preparation for this first Test, and it will be a tough ask for the Proteas to compete.