Cook should thrive without pressure

England To Claim Test Series Win Over SA

England will be aiming to begin an important year of Test cricket with a series victory over South Africa in Joe Root’s bow as captain of the side.

The Yorkshireman inherited the duties after Alastair Cook stood down following the Three Lions’ defeat at the hands of India over the winter.

Cook had spent four-and-a-half years in the role and had success leading the team, although he did have trouble removing the stain of a whitewash defeat at the hands of Australia in the 2013-14 Ashes series.

England’s highest run-scorer now drops back into the ranks to allow Root to take the Three Lions forward into the Ashes later this year, with a winning start imperative to build momentum for the series Down Under.

South Africa will pose a stern test and are unbeaten in their last three Test series in England, oddly enough seeing off three captains in the form of Nasser Hussain, Michael Vaughan and Andrew Strauss in their previous visits.

The Proteas should not have the same affect this time around, although they have the quality to dent Root’s opening series as captain by leaving their tour on a high note by defeating the Three Lions over the four contests this summer.

We’ll now look ahead to the series and break down where it will be won or lost, starting with the leading batsmen for both teams.

England’s Top Batsman

Cook should thrive without pressure

Root will be determined to kickstart his reign as captain with strong performances over the course of the series. The 26-year-old will have watched his counterparts Steve Smith and Kane Williamson thrive, with Australia and New Zealand respectively, and the pressure will be on the England captain to match the success of the duo at the highest level.

He was rested from the recent T20 series against the Proteas and had the opportunity to bat for Yorkshire in their clash against Surrey, only for the elements to blight any potential time to play a substantial innings in first-class cricket.

Root did impress during the ICC Champions Trophy, notching his highest ODI score against Bangladesh with an unbeaten 133, while he also scored a half-century in England’s win over New Zealand. He failed to fire in the semi-final against Pakistan, but was not the only player to struggle to adapt to arid conditions in Cardiff.

It may take time for him to realign his game to the longer format and he faces a quality attack, with Kagiso Rabada, Morne Morkel and Vernon Philander all desperate to knock him off his perch.

As a result, it may take a little while for Root to adjust to the pressure of captaincy as well as leading the way with his side with the bat. Fortunately Cook is in outstanding form and will have been relieved to have handed over the duties to Root.

He remains one of the best batsmen in the world and is operating near the peak of his powers, having scored 193 in his last County Championship innings for Essex. Therefore backing him to lead the way in the series for the Three Lions at odds of +225   with Ladbrokes is the bet to take.

South Africa’s Top Batsman

Without the presence of AB de Villiers for the Test series – much of the burden for South Africa’s run will fall on the shoulders of Hashim Amla. The 34-year-old gave up the captaincy during the Proteas last clash against England in the longest form of the game following his side’s defeat on home soil.

Amla has not been in great form in Test matches over the last year, scoring just one century in his last 17 innings. South Africa cannot afford for him not to be at his best in the four matches as their line-up is fairly inexperienced, with the majority of their line-up having never played a Test in English conditions – therefore he has to rise to the occasion.

The 34-year-old has managed to find some form during the tour, although results have not been great for the Proteas thus far. He scored an unbeaten 91 against the England Lions in their warm-up match in Worcester, suggesting that he should be in good knick for the opener at Lord’s, although the quality of the attack was far from the front line of seamers from the Three Lions.

Quinton de Kock is South Africa’s man on the rise and seems destined to join Root, Smith, Williamson and Kohli in the group of the world’s leading batsmen. He averages 51.26 in his fledgling international career, with three hundreds and nine half-centuries to his name thus far.

The 24-year-old has been in solid form on the tour, including an innings of 51 in his last outing against the England Lions. Backing him at +450   with Coral is the best value to top score in the series for the Proteas.

England’s Top Bowler

Wood can make a statement

England are approaching a crossroads in their bowling attack as James Anderson approaches the end of his career.

The 34-year-old has began to pick up niggling injuries which have ruled him out multiple matches of the last year, while he appeared to be struggling to find his form in India on his return to action.

Anderson faces a huge series ahead of him to prove that he can still operate at a high level and also keep himself fit for the duration of the summer before England’s schedule only becomes more hectic in the winter with the Ashes.

He does not have the strongest record against South Africa, but he is more than capable of rising to the occasion to guide England to victory over the course of the series.

Mark Wood highlighted his quality with the ball in Durham’s clash against Worcestershire in the round of day/night matches. His speed and ability to reverse the ball adds a different dimension to England’s attack that they have been missing in his almost two-year absence from the outfit.

The 27-year-old could be England’s match-winner – therefore backing him to lead the wicket column to make a statement in the series at odds of +400   with Ladbrokes could be worth a punt.

Series Winner

England and Root will be eager to kickstart their new era with a victory. They find South Africa in a vulnerable spot without their captain Faf du Plessis for the opener at least after he went back home for the birth of his first child, while De Villiers and Dale Steyn are also absent.

The Three Lions have been solid if not spectacular at home in recent Test series, drawing last time out against Pakistan. Root’s men should have the quality to see off the Proteas to claim their first series win in over a year at odds of -152   with Marathon Bet.

South Africa’s bowling attack may allow them to win at least one contest, but their batting depth is a cause for concern beyond Amla and De Kock. Therefore taking the series score for a 3-1 England victory at odds of +800   with William Hill is the bet that would be a prudent option.

Tips Summary

Alastair Cook To Be England’s Top Batsman
Thursday July 6th – August 8th 2017
Odds: +225

Quinton de Kock To Be South Africa’s Top Batsman
Thursday July 6th – August 8th 2017
Odds: +450

Mark Wood To Be England’s Top Bowler
Thursday July 6th – August 8th 2017
Odds: +400

England To Beat South Africa
Thursday July 6th – August 8th 2017
Odds: -152

England To Beat South Africa 3-1
Thursday July 6th – August 8th 2017
Odds: +800

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