England vs South Africa 2012: First Test preview
Man I have been looking forward to this series for a while now. It is not often that the two top sides in Test cricket go head to head with the winner of the series being declared the top dog; Numero Uno; best team in the world; current kings of Test cricket… you get the idea.
It is always enjoyable watching England lose but watching them lose to the Proteas in their own backyard is sheer fried awesome. Will they lose though? They are the current number one ranked Test side and have not lost a home series since they lost to the Proteas in 2008. They recently dominated West Indies at home and have a settled and experienced squad with all-rounder Ravi Bopara coming in to strengthen their side.
The Proteas on the other hand have had little Test cricket recently and have only played two rain delayed warm up games. They did thankfully attend a 3 day team building exercise in the Swiss Alps though so at least we know their yodeling will be tip-top.
The Proteas have made one forced change to the side after losing the services of Mark Boucher, who was forced to retire from international cricket after receiving a bail to the eye in the first warm up game. Boucher was one of, if not the best wicket keeper in the world, with the most ever Test dismissals and the Proteas will miss his never say die attitude, invaluable experience and winner smile. JP Duminy takes his place with vice captain with AB de Villiers taking over as wicket keeper for the first test. Lions keeper, Thami Tsolekile has been flown in as cover.
The two bowling sides are very evenly matched and are both chock-a-block filled with game changers. SA may trump the quick bowlers having the number 1 ranked Test bowler, Dale Steyn in their ranks but England have world-class spin bowler, Graeme Swann who has far more experience than the Proteas spinner, Imran Tahir.
In the batting, AB de Villiers, Jacques Kallis and Hashim Amla are all ranked higher than England’s top batsman but Alastair Cook, Ian Bell and former Saffas Jonathan OCD Trott and Kevin Brylcreem Pietersen are all in fine form and will be looking to dominate early.
The Proteas have never won at the Oval in 10 attempts and the English rightly start as favourites for this Test but does that matter, players like captain Graeme Smith, Steyn and Kallis will all say ‘Nay!’ as they look to get off to a winning start come Thursday. Unfortunately the weather may spoil the party as England have had one of their wettest ‘summers’ in years, so let’s hope for sunny skies and dry conditions. Fingers crossed.
Venue: The Oval, London
Firstball bowled in anger: 19 July, 12:00pm
Prediction: Proteas to win it for Bouch