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The English cricket team will tour South Africa this winter, after a year which has featured disappointment and jubilation in equal measure. The tour will consist of five one-day international, two Twenty20 matches, and four test matches – beginning with the traditional opening test at Kingsmead in Durban on Boxing Day.
We’re concentrating on the four-match test series to begin with, and now is the time to get on the early prices before they contract closer to the start. It’s as long ago as 2009/10 when England last played a test series in South Africa, with the contest ending in a draw after the teams won a test apiece and drew the other two. This time around England arrive off the back of a mixed tour against Pakistan, where they lost the test series but came out on top in both one-day and Twenty20 competitions. South Africa also appear off the back of a poor test series result – they are currently losing the series in India by 2-0, with the final match still underway.
However, the Proteas are a different kettle of fish in their own country, and England will have it all to do to come away with a positive result.
What a year it’s been for English cricket. The one-day World Cup in Australia and New Zealand was an unmitigated disaster, but with the benefit of hindsight, it may have created the spark required to turn things around. The one-day side demonstrated a new attacking style of cricket in the record-breaking series win over New Zealand in England, and that was carried into the Ashes under new coach Trevor Bayliss. A sterling England performance against the odds, saw them reclaim the famous urn along with their pride and self-respect.
The test series in UAE against Pakistan followed, but as we predicted, the feel-good factor didn’t continue and Pakistan did what they often seem to do – bring England back down to earth. The tourists did manage to hold Pakistan to a draw in the first test, but the hosts fought back to claim the second test by 178 runs, and the third test by 127 runs, to secure a 2-0 series win.
England certainly seem to excel at the short format game over the five-day test game, and that proved to be the case as they ran out winners of the one-day series which saw us get a nice return. The profit continued in the Twenty20 series as we predicted a 3-0 whitewash by Eoin Morgan’s side, who duly did the business taking the series 3-0 at a cracking price of +550 .
They may well be worth backing in the one-day and T20 series that follow this test series, but in the long format of the game they often fall short.
South Africa Top of the Pile
The Proteas are rated as the top side in test match cricket, according to the ICC ratings, and they can assert their authority over England across the four tests.
The recent defeat in India is the first away test South Africa have lost since going down to Sri Lanka in 2006, but they will be a dangerous animal back on home soil.
England have made plenty of changes in the squad they’ll take to South Africa, with Ian Bell a high profile omission – which could spell the end of his international career. Nick Compton and Gary Ballance have both earned recalls to the side, while uncapped pace bowler Mark Footitt has been given a place after injuries to Mark Wood and Steven Finn.
Adil Rashid is also a surprise omission, with the selectors determining that he might be surplus to requirements on South African pitches, and he is set to get himself a Big Bash deal in Australia with the Adelaide Strikers. Samit Patel admitted that his response was to chuckle when he got the call telling him he had been selected, having assumed he would drop out of the squad after being called up as a replacement for Zafar Ansari for the series against Pakistan. Chris Woakes and Chris Jordan are both also retained in the squad, but there is no place for Liam Plunkett, despite him being taken to UAE for the tour against Pakistan.
Moeen Ali is likely to drop back down to number 8 after the failed experiment of using him as an opener alongside Alastair Cook, and England’s search for a reliable opening partner for the captain continues. Alex Hales remains the man most likely to take up the mantle, although there are calls for Compton to revive his partnership with Cook; The Compton-Cook combination was the first one used after Andrew Strauss’ retirement, and remains the most prolific, but if Hales is the man, then Compton will fight it out with Ballance for the number three slot.
South Africa are yet to name their full squad for the series, but they are bound to select a strong side to regain the winning thread and prove their position at the top of the rankings is deserved. We will look at individual matches closer to the time, but for now it makes sense to jump on South Africa to win the series at a decent price against an England side that will be unsettled by the amount of changes and injuries.
South Africa to beat England in Test Series
1st Test: Saturday 26th December, 08:00 GMT
2nd Test: Saturday 2nd January, 08:30 GMT
3rd Test: Thursday 14th January, 08:30 GMT
4th Test: Friday 22nd January, 08:30 GMT
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