England Vs South Africa - Preview
England had the edge over South Africa in the two shorter formats of the game and attention now turns to the four-match Test series between the two nations.
All eyes will be on Joe Root as he leads his country for the first time, with former captain Alastair Cook returning to the ranks after last winter’s disappointing 4-0 series defeat in India.
Viewed for a number of years as the natural successor to Cook, the Yorkshire batsman takes over the Test captaincy ahead of an important period for England – especially with an Ashes tour in Australia at the end of the year.
Cook has enjoyed a productive start to the summer with Essex, and he will open alongside Durham’s Keaton Jennings, with Lancashire youngster Haseeb Hameed overlooked after an underwhelming opening to the season.
Root batted at three in the winter but he could move down a place with the return to form of Yorkshire teammate Gary Ballance, who has been recalled after scoring over 800 runs already this summer.
Jonny Bairstow and all-rounder Ben Stokes will make up the rest of the top six but there is no recall for Jos Buttler, meaning that Bairstow retains the gloves ahead of a big summer of Test cricket.
Moeen Ali is likely to be the primary spin option after a harrowing lesson for all of England’s spin contingent in the sub-continent last winter, but the inclusion of Hampshire’s Liam Dawson in the 12-man squad gives Root the option of playing two spinners.
The pace trio of James Anderson, Stuart Broad and Mark Wood will all surely play, leaving the final decision down to the inclusion of Dawson or uncapped Middlesex seamer Toby Roland-Jones.
South Africa will be without their two most influential players in batsman AB De Villiers and fast-bowler Dale Steyn.
The tourists’ hopes will be reliant on bowling trio Morne Morkel, Vernon Philander and Kagiso Rabada making the most of the English conditions, whilst the experience of batsman Hashim Amla will be key following the news that Faf du Plessis is set to miss the First Test.
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