Tomorrow sees the start of the most eagerly anticipated series in the last five years of test cricket. England, the world’s number one take on South Africa, who are ranked No.3, in a series effectively to decide who is the best team in the world. Australia maybe ranked second, but the utter disdain with which they were beaten by England in Australia 18 months ago makes a slight mockery of the rankings.
The fact that England and South Africa are contesting just a three test series has been argued long and hard, there is nothing that can be done now, the main effect it has is that both teams have no warm up and must hit the first test at full steam. Both sides know each other very well and are very settled in all formats of the game. Both possess easily the best two bowling attacks in the world. For cricket played in English conditions, England and South Africa would make up a world XI. Its not just the fact that these two sides are so good, it’s the fact that recent series have always had some added bite to them, neither side likes losing, especially to the other.
Bet365 Bet: Series Winner:
11/10 England, 21/10 South Africa, 14/5 Draw
England, the undisputed world No.1 test side, have not lost a home series since they were beaten by South Africa in 2008, and they have not lost a single test match at home since 2010 to Pakistan. The fact that South Africa was the last side to beat them at home will only add to their desire to win. Besides a major blip in Pakistan over the winter, England have dominated all comers for the last 3 years, including Australia away. Earlier this summer they dispatched a youthful West Indies side 2-0, in an ideal preparation for this series.
England have countless match winners in their side, and their side appears to be almost faultless. Their batting is as strong as it could be, and has an ideal blend of technically astute batsmen and strokemakers. Alistair Cook and Kevin Pietersen are undoubtedly the key for England, and they regularly seem to bat very well together. If they are able to spend sufficient time together at the crease then England will do well. In their bowling attack England have three of the top 8 bowlers in the world game, in Anderson, Broad and Swann, their fourth bowler, Tim Bresnan has only played one test match which England didn’t win.
Having heard the first half of the story, it seems that England are comfortable favourites, sadly this is not the case. South Africa are not third in the world for nothing, and they have not lost a test series since 2009, when Australia beat them. More remarkably they have not lost an away test series since 2006, when they lost in Sri Lanka. Their batting line-up possesses four of the top 10 batsman in the world, and they will most probably have JP Duminy batting as low as number seven.
However their preparations for the first test which starts on thursday at the Oval, took a severe hit last week, when wicket-keeper Mark Boucher was forced to have emergency treatment after being struck by a bail in the eye in a freak accident. He has subsequently flown home, and retired from all forms of cricket. Boucher has been a rock of the South African side for a long time, and his absence so close to the first test will surely have had an impact on his countries preperations. Luckily for South Africa, AB De Villiers is a more than handy replacement, who actually keeps in one-day cricket. The question is how he will adapt to test cricket, where he might have to keep for two days, as opposed to 50 overs?
If their batting line up is strong then their bowling is equally so. They have three bowlers in the top 10 in the world, and in Jacques Kallis, they have one of the best all-rounders in the history of the game. If they have a weakness it may be spinner Imran Tahir, who is inexperienced in the test arena. He has however played a few years of county cricket in England.
Test Series Betting Tips Verdict
The first test takes place at The Oval, and with the recent run of weather in the UK, rain is likely to play its part. The Oval is also probably the best batting track in England, and the combination of this and potential bad weather means a draw is likely as both sides will want to make sure they do not find themselves 1-0 down in such a short series.