We have been waiting for an England versus South Africa series with such anticipation, that one could be mistaken that it is an Ashes series. Six out of the worlds top 14 bowlers and 8 out of the worlds top 17 batsmen are on show in a mouthwatering heavyweight spectacle.
Notably the major head to head will be with the ball. In English conditions with Steyn Phillander and Morkel against Anderson Broad and either most likely Finn or Bresnan with the newer ball and a world class spinner in Swann against Tahir who has still to prove his International credibility . Of course the batsmen will be the ones facing this barrage of world class bowlers. Pietersen against the incomparable Jacques Kallis for me will be the biggest standoff. It will also be interesting to see how the captains fair with Strauss back in nick and Smith with very fond early memories of England.
People are labeling South Africa as the better side with faster bowlers, higher ranked batsmen and better fielders. They apparently have the hunger to win which could be the edge. I hugely respect the South Africans obvious class and professionalism and am looking forward to this contest but i simply don’t agree that in a three match series England at home are the underdogs at all.
An incredibly unfortunate incident forced retirement of Mark Boucher. His 147 test match career over 15 year span made him the experienced wicket keeper and a gritty number seven. He is irreplaceable and has left a gaping hole in the South African side. He was a thorn in England’s side last time scoring a huge amount of runs including a 95. Most importantly however, South Africa have been majorly disrupted by this change because their batting lineup is now unsettled and filled with bith inconsistency and a lack of stability.
Many assumed before the series the two batting and bowling lineups would lock horns. After the retirement of Boucher, South Africa’s lineup doesn’t look as strong especially with Kallis’s abysmal record and England’s recent triumph against Australia both with bat and ball in the ODI series. Australia only managed to take 13 wickets in 4 games. England’s batmsne are in good form and there is a string of top quality bowlers to reel off if there are any injuries. Tremlett and Dernbach don’t even make the squad.
South Africa are having to give AB De Villiers the gloves and shift the order around slightly. Thami Tsolekile might fill in after the first test which means a batsmen will have to drop out. It’s also fair to say he is a keeper not a keeper batsmen. I reckon AB may just carry on with the gloves. Currently in the first test it’s likely all of the three batsmen; Duminy Petersen and Rudolph could play due to De Villiers now taking the gloves. This is very different to England’s situation with a solid top 5 and newbie Bopara in at 6. England do bat right down to 10 though so if South Africa really are as good as people think they are about to meet their match.
South Africa have a big problem in the sense that One top of the batsmen of all time, Jacques Kallis has a dreadful record in England: In England, between 1998-2008 Kallis has played 12 games and had 20 innings. Despite his career average being just below 60 his average in England is 29.30. He has only scored one hundred and 3 fifties in his entire time in England in which he has only accumulated 586 runs. Kallis’s form is so shocking in England that his bowling average of 27.51 (35 wickets) is only marginally different to his batting average which in the high twenties is very unusual baring in mind his career batting average is so brilliant. Kallis is obviously a world class batsmen and stats don’t lie. He now has over fourty test tons and will be an invaluable member of the side and i think most fans want this abysmal record to turn around so we can all watch some world class batting
England’s side more or less picks itself with only two minor selection issues, that of number 6 and number 8. One of these is now sorted as it’s now clear Ravi Bopara will play after having an unfortunate injury against the West Indies that opened the door for Johnny Bairstow, now back, and in serious nick he has a chance to prove himself.
The dynamic mix of attack and defense, orthodoxy and innovation that exists between both teams will be compelling to watch. The Settled settled and in form opening partnership of the assured Andrew Strauss and confident Alistair Cook is a far cry from South Africa who have an under cooked and unpredictable opening pair who are fallible. England not only have most areas covered in the top seven but the depth of the batting is second to none. Bresnan Averages 40 with the bat at number 8 (3 fifties in 14 games), broad averages 27 with 9 fifties and a test 150 in 47 games. Even Graeme Swann averages 21 at number 10.
South Africa on paper also have a very good batting lineup with Smith Kallis Amla and De Villiers but one feels there is a little frailty after the big guns are out. Petersen is not assured of his place in the side, especially knowing fullwell that once AB changes back to being a specialist batsmen someone will get dropped. Duminy has never played in English conditions, Pietersen although scoring a ton in his last test also, has not been in the best of form in English conditions for Essex and Rudolph.down at probably 6 or 7 or opening , has been a little bit of a disaster in test matches upon return scoring just 1 ton and 2 fifties in 12 innings. His record previous to this was equally lackluster. There is no long wrong of form to speak of despite scoring runs in his last few games
The Bowl off between Steyn Morkel and Phillander and the England Bowlers is one of the most anticipated and long standing rivalries that we have been waiting to see unfold. Phillander has been brilliant coming into the side and being one the quickest to 50 wickets. He isn’t the same pace as Steyn and Morkel but has an impeccable line and length and regularly extracts something from the pitch or conditions. He has been very good also for Somerset taking 23 wickets in 5 games during a short stint. he knows England well.
England’s only minor issue is “who they pick as the third seamer “ is a good one to have. Bresnan , Finn or Onions. Each offer something a little different. Each have had some success in test cricket before. It isn’t as if England have a choice between Darren Pattinson, Amjad Kahn and another horses for courses of bowler of yesteryear. These are high class bowlers that are keeping the likes of Chris Tremlett out the Squad let alone the side.
England have had a little drama with Pietersen with his retirement but he is in very good form having smashed a double century for Surrey and being one of the players that ‘rises to the occasion’ he could be a vital player for England. Of course Steyn has already chirped away at KP and the series is hotting uo
This series is going to be a heavily dominated by the bowlers one thinks. Whereas there are a few kinks with both batting lineups, the bowling units on both sides are seriously strong and there is so much depth. Even the second string of bowlers for both sides are world class. England can call upon the likes of Tremlett, Onions, Dernbach and have the likes of Meaker waiting in the wings. South Africa although without Merchant De Lange have Tsotsebe abd Albie Morkel to come in.
As long as the weather holds up it will be a cracking 3 game series.