English and South Africans have a cricketing history that goes beyond the records books. Before rest of the world joined in, English loved thumping Proteas whenever Aussies weren't around for Ashes. Played timeless test matches and even abandoned one after 10 days when last ship back home was leaving! Then, apartheid issue got hot and British balantly banned diamond hunters for two long decades but then, also played crucial role in keeping cricketing hope burning in the country by giving opportunities to top cricketers in county circuit. Did you know Allan Donald almost played for England but thankfully South Africans were given a re-entry into international cricket in 1992?
Even today, good 3-4 prominent players in England eleven learnt initials of the game in South Africa and both teams understand one another inside out. Proteas, in recent times, have developed a strong team, if not the strongest, which we'll find out in next three weeks as these two age old enemies lock horns in Investec test series. Whoever wins, will truely be the best test team today. Let's not put too much value to ICC rankings which, although, agrees.
Summer has finally snailed it's way into England and we are expected to get at least 400 overs of quality red ball white cloth cricket. Here's how the two teams stand before the battle begins :-
Head to head139th England v South Africa test match it will be, with English leading 56 to 29 besides 53 draws. In England, two teams clash for the 62nd time and home team leads 27 to 11 with 23 draws. At the venue, The Oval in London, England have never lost to visitors, winning 6 times and drawing 7 other tests.
Playing ElevensIt's the bowlers who win test matches, batsmen just set it up and likes of Alastair Cook, Andrew Strauss with his back to back centuries, Jonathan Trott's steely desire, Kevin Pietersen's counter attack and Ian Bell's class has put enough runs on board to enable James Anderson, Stuart Broad and Graeme Swann to buy wickets, if not snatch them. Will this combination be able to do the job yet again? isn't there a bowling option missing? may be presense of Ravi Bopara will solve that.
England (likely) : Andrew Strauss (c), Alastair Cook, Jonathan Trott, Kevin Pietersen, Ian Bell, Ravi Bopara, Matt Prior (wk), Tim Bresnan, Stuart Broad, Graeme Swann and James Anderson.
Graeme Smith has spent more time in rehab than out of it in last couple of years while Alviro Pietersen may not have nerves for such a big occassion. Can visiting openers negotiate nw bal? That's the big question cause after that, middle order looks strong comprising Godsend Hashim Amla, debatable best batter Jacques Kallis and then multi talented AB de Villiers. JP Duminy will get a game to score some runs, field acobatically and also bowl some offspin but wicket taking responsibility will rest on Dale Steyn who's promised to bowl his fastest, Morne Morkel's steep bounce, Vernon Philander's cutters and Imran Tahir's puzzling leggies.
South Africa (likely) : Graeme Smith (c), Alviro Petersen, Hashim Amla, Jacques Kallis, AB de Villiers (wk), JP Duminy/Jacques Rudolph, Vernon Philander, Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel and Imran Tahir.
Also see : England v South Africa test match records